Using public transport is the right of all citizens. However, for people with disabilities, it seems that their rights are still being ignored.
Incredibly, a new rail station, the Brent Cross West Thameslink, in north-west London, a 4.5-billion-pound project which is set to open in 2022, does not have step-free access from the platform onto the train. If the plans are approved, that means that wheelchair users will not be able to get on the train if there is not a member of staff available to put down the ramp for them. Unfortunately, Govia Thameslink Railway, admit that most Thameslink services are operated with just a driver and do not even have any other staff on board who can assist disabled passengers. Furthermore, the company met with protests after recently issuing a guidance which told staff not to attempt to get “persons of reduced mobility” onto a train if there was the possibility of causing a delay in the service!!!!!!
Many older train stations do not offer wheelchair access, but instead of putting more money into improvement projects recently released figures reveal that over £80-million has been slashed from the Access for All Scheme over the last 5-years.
The government has just promised up to £300-million of additional funding for the Access for All programme. So, let’s hope that the future for disabled and elderly train travellers will show a marked improvement in the future. There is also £2-million of funding for a new public awareness campaign which is designed to “promote ways of positively interacting with disabled people”. Let’s hope that this is successful and that no more wheelchair and buggy users, and people will other disabilities, will have to suffer the embarrassment of having to ask to be given a seat or be refused access to any public transport. It high time!