Kim McGuinness, the Labour candidate for mayor, has called on Network Rail to strengthen station improvement plans or risk forcing out elderly and disabled passengers. Bosses at Network Rail are about to embark on a new round of station and track upgrades, with the Eastern leg alone likely to see some £10bn invested. But rail chiefs have only set aside £300mn to make train stations more passenger friendly and step free.
Kim McGuinness said she wants devolved power to bring train stations under local, public control in order to co-ordinate improvements and invest in those that drive the locally economy.
She has written to Network Rail urging the organisation to do more to bring stations up to standard. She said:
“It’s time our public transport was owned by the public and accessible to the public, and that means everyone, not just the young and mobile.”
Improvements are needed
Many North East stations need substantial upgrades to make them easier for elderly and disabled users.
In the most recent parliamentary study into accessibility on the railway there were many areas of improvements identified for the North East, with issues to be addressed by both Network Rail and train operators.
Incredibly, only 24% of North East stations have accessible ticket machines in place, while just 13% have a ticket offices that everyone can use. This figure drops to just 6% across Northumberland, the third lowest in the country.
Around 16% of our stations do not have step-free access, but this figure I believe hides the true picture. Many North East stations may appear to have ramp access but a study of these has shown many actually have poor standard ramps.
These fall way below modern standards for accessibility and will often be too steep narrow or rough for a wheelchair to use.
Speaking up for the North East
“Network Rail needs to set out how they will make every North East train station accessible to elderly and disabled users, by when and how much of this £300mn pot we’ll see in the North East.
“We cannot continue with a two-tier railway network, more needs to be done to help elderly and disabled passengers.
“But there is a wider issue here – the North East shouldn’t have to deal with distant quangos and layers of bureaucracy to get things done. Many of the key train stations in the North should be in public hands, so we can co-ordinate public transport improvements and regenerate city and town centre locations.
“As mayor I’ll be fighting to ensure control of our stations is handed back to the people of the North East.”
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