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Access for All

Volume 619: debated on Thursday 12 January 2017

7. What recent assessment he has made of progress on delivery of Access for All projects by Network Rail. (908122)

Since 2014, the Access for All programme has completed accessible routes at 25 stations, with 12 more currently in construction, and a further 52 at various stages of design and development.

The Minister will understand the real anger in Alfreton at the further delays in the Access for All programme at the station there, where many passengers still cannot use the southbound platform. Can he at least reassure them that the station will be prioritised in the next block of funding, so that the improvements are done in 2019?

We had to delay 26 Access for All projects into control period 6, one of which was, unfortunately, Alfreton, because the project there was less developed than others we were considering. Nevertheless, I can reassure my hon. Friend that I am making it clear to Network Rail that I expect the improvements to be delivered early in control period 6, after 2019.

Does the Minister recognise the importance of the maximum number of people being able to use our rail services? Why are schemes such as Access for All seen as expendable?

I certainly do not agree that they are regarded as expendable. We have reached a point at which roughly 70% of passenger journeys are from step-free access stations, of which there are roughly 450 throughout the network. The hon. Lady wrote to me regarding a station in her constituency, and I have asked my officials to look into that more closely to make sure we fully understand what has occurred there. I hope to reply to her soon.

The McNulty report said that the rail industry had to do more to operate efficiently and bring down costs. Will the Minister say what he is doing to persuade the rail industry to do that in relation to step-free access, so that it can be extended to more stations, such as New Barnet?

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. When we are looking at improving our accessibility projects throughout the network, we need to ensure that the solutions we come up with are cost-effective but not gold-plated. I am sure that when she was in my role she found what I find now, which is that sometimes projects come before us the cost of which can scarcely be justified and that the same outcome can be achieved much more cheaply.

Confusion and frustration abound in the Lawrence Hill area of my constituency, in relation to step-free access and other disability access improvements to the Lawrence Hill station. Local people have been frustrated by the works there, and rumours abound that they are being cancelled, postponed or just stopped. Will the Minister agree to meet me and visit Lawrence Hill station to talk to local residents about the situation? Preferably, he could clear the matter up right now.

I am not familiar with the exact details for that station, but I am more than happy to meet the hon. Lady to discover what is occurring there.