FIRST the good news. Six stations – Bridlington, Garforth, Menston, Northallerton Selby and Todmorden – will benefit from the extra £300m that the Government has set aside to improve disability access so wheelchair users, and other people with mobility issues, are not so dependent on the goodwill of staff and passengers.
Now the bad news. The Department for Transport’s official press release confirmed that work at the 73 stations to benefit from ‘Access for All’ funding will not be completed until “the end of March 2024”. That is another five years down the line – provided that there are no unexpected hold-ups – and more than a decade after the successful staging of the 2012 Paralympics was supposed to change society’s approach towards all disabled people so they did not have to fight for their independence.
Not only is this slow rate of progress so symptomatic of Chris Grayling’s entire tenureship of the poorly run DfT, an insult to all those disabled passengers who are struggling now to reach platforms, never mind get on and off trains safely, but it shows that the Government has clearly not listened to campaigners like Yorkshire’s very own Paralympic superstar Hannah Cockroft.
And this announcement is further evidence why decisions for such investment need to be taken locally by Transport for the North, local authorities, Network Rail and train operators. This issue is far too important to be left at the Department for Transport’s mercy. Indeed the fact that Selby MP Nigel Adams raised this issue at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, hours after quitting the Government over Brexit, spoke volumes.