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Disabled Rail Passengers

Volume 641: debated on Thursday 24 May 2018

The Government will publish an inclusive transport strategy later this year. I assure my hon. Friends that I and the Department believe that disabled people should have the same access to transport as anyone else and be able to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost. All train fleets operating passenger services will meet modern accessibility standards by 1 January 2020. Further funding for the Access for All stations programme will be made available for 2019 to 2024.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Clearly, there is a desperate need for a lift at both Stanmore and Canons Park stations. That is the responsibility of the Labour Mayor of London, who has failed to deliver. Also, Harrow and Wealdstone station is in my constituency, and the local authority’s civic centre is part of the “Heart of Harrow” regeneration scheme. The station does not have disabled access or step-free access, even though it has an overground, underground and Network Rail interchange. How can we get suitable access to that station?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Transport for London manages transport services in the capital and is responsible for implementing the Mayor of London’s transport strategy, so Stanmore and Canons Park underground stations are his responsibility. I hope he is following today’s proceedings and will deliver for disabled and able-bodied passengers in my hon. Friend’s constituency.

Of course, Harrow and Wealdstone station falls under the Access for All stations programme, and bidding for funding will open shortly. I urge my hon. Friend to get in touch with his local authority, which can work with the transport operating companies and put together the best possible bid to secure funding.

Now that the Minister has confirmed that the Government will continue the Access for All scheme, which has improved accessibility across many of this country’s railway stations, can she advise us on how can we get the Cumbrian coastal railways included in future funding bids?

My hon. Friend is a great champion for her constituency, so she will no doubt help the local authority and transport operating company to put together the best possible bid. The Access for All programme will provide step-free access to stations across the country, and I know how popular it is across the House. It will be open for bidding shortly. Stations will need to be nominated by the transport operating company, based on chosen criteria. Annual footfall and the local incidence of disability will be taken into account, as well as priorities such as industry and local factors such as proximity to hospitals and availability of third-party funding.

The Secretary of State has already slashed £50 million from the Access for All fund, and now Govia Thameslink Railways’ new staff guidance says,

“do not attempt to place persons of reduced mobility on a train if there is a possibility of delaying the service”

and that they should

“move from the train as quickly as possible”

someone having a seizure. That is not only completely wrong medical advice, but directly discriminates against disabled people. Why has the Minister not intervened, and why has GTR been allowed to get away with this direct disability discrimination?

Since 2006, about 200 stations have been made step-free and 75% of rail journeys are now step-free through stations. Funding has been made available and will continue to be made available. One of the biggest issues we have in getting people who are disabled to use public transport is confidence, so we need to let them know that we have accessible stations. Now I will respond to the point about GTR. There was one line in the document—

Will the hon. Lady give me a minute to respond? It was not the best use of language, and I can update the House and say that my officials have spoken to GTR and raised concerns about that line and the language used in the leaflet. The leaflet is good overall, but the hon. Lady is right to point out that one particular line was not appropriate, and it will be revised.

Order. Forgive me; these are very informative answers, but we have a lot of questions to get through, so we need short answers and short questions.

Disabled passengers in the Lawrence Hill area of my constituency are not being served with step-free access, although they have been promised it for some years. They have to get a train upline and then another downline on the other side before they can get to Temple Meads to get a mainline train. Will the Minister meet me and Councillor Margaret Hickman to discuss this urgently?

Of course I am happy to meet the hon. Lady to talk about accessibility in her constituency. As I mentioned earlier, Access for All funding is available for train stations; if she were alluding to a tube station, that would be another situation altogether. As she is talking about a train station, I am more than happy to meet her.