‘It is hard not to become cynical’
15 March 2019
Alison, one of our campaigners, speaks about her fight to make her local station step-free.
My name is Alison. I, along with other disabled people and local residents, have been campaigning for step free access to Nailsea and Backwell, our local railway station since 2008.
I understand that these things take time but sadly three members of our original campaign group, with progressive conditions, died in 2013 without seeing their hopes realised. Time is not always on our side.
I am constantly being told that the rail company who is responsible for the station is fully committed to making the station totally accessible.
However, over the years there have been long periods of silence when updates have been few and far between. It is only when I press for information that I am told anything.
The station is elevated and the only access to the platforms is via steep steps on one side and a steep slope, with a gradient which doesn't meet disability guidelines, on the other side.
The rail operators will provide a taxi service to the nearest accessible station but this has to be pre-booked via the passenger assistance line. It is not always reliable, sometimes the taxi doesn’t arrive or the taxi is not wheelchair accessible.
Every journey has to be planned in advance with no chance of any spontaneity. With a health condition that varies from day to day it is not always possible to plan activities days in advance.
Access for All funding
There was great excitement in 2011 when the station was awarded £1.2m under Access for All funding to construct ramps to both platforms. The money was ring-fenced and had to be used by the end of March 2014.
Plans were drawn up but no work was undertaken.
March 2014 came and went and the car park expansion work (funded by North Somerset Council) was completed along with the provision of several disabled parking bays.
But the station remained inaccessible and the Access for All funding was used elsewhere. I continued to campaign with the help of local media and petitions.
In April 2015 we were told work would be done to improve access 'for persons with reduced mobility at Nailsea and Backwell Station'. The assurances continued in 2016, with the rail company’s CEO getting involved and our MP and Channel 4 putting the pressure on.
But since then we’ve seen plans for ramps and lifts at the station rejected by Network Rail.
In November 2018 the rail company once again submitted an application for Access for All funding. No successful funding announcements have been made to date but I am hopeful again.
A standing joke
It has become a local standing joke worthy of Fawlty Towers when people see me…’Don’t mention the station!!!’
It is hard not to become cynical.
We are constantly being told of the dangers to public health due to over-reliance on cars and encouraged to use public transport…if only I could!!!
Find out if your local train stations are step-free and write to the rail company telling them why it’s important to make rail travel more accessible for disabled people.