Railways fail disabled passengers

Almost one in four train stations in the region are failing to be fully accessible for disabled people, according to a new survey.

Research by disability charity Leonard Cheshire has found 22 per cent of railway stations in the East Midlands do not have full step-free access, including Sleaford, meaning a regular struggle throughout the year for commuters with mobility problems.

Sleaford railway station, with disabled pedestrian crossing at the very far end of the platform. EMN-200701-100910001

Sleaford railway station, with disabled pedestrian crossing at the very far end of the platform. EMN-200701-100910001

The charity calculates the government will miss its 2030 target to make entire journeys step-free by 40 years at the current average rate of its upgrade scheme.

At Sleaford the station is only partially accessible, with level access to platform 1 for Peterborough and Skegness bound trains. But there is two flights of steps and a bridge to negotiate to reach platforms 2 and 3 for Lincoln and Nottingham bound services.

Wheelchair user Thelma Smith of Leasingham is a leader of Sleaford Laffletics sports club for disabled children and said: “I think all trains carry a portable ramp, or there is one available at stations, and local trains do have a wheelchair space and some have accessible toilets.”

There is a supervised foot crossing at the far end of the platform, but she explained: “You are only allowed to cross with permission of the signaller and this has to be obtained by ringing 0800 022 3720 at least 24 hours in advance.”

She added that station staff were only available between 7am and 1.30pm Monday to Saturday to help people safely across to Platforms 2 and 3. No staff are available on Sundays.

She said: “I was chairman of the NK access group many years in the past, and I seem to remember the possibility of building lifts on both sides of the track discussed some years ago.”

Leonard Cheshire is now campaigning for legislation that will compel the government and rail operators to speed all improvements up to be completed by 2030.

The charity claims that inaccessible rail stations mean disabled people will currently be excluded from travelling by train from their local station.

An East Midlands Railway spokesperson said: “Most of the rail network was built many generations ago when the needs of passengers with reduced mobility were regrettably not taken into account.

“We are working hard to put that right and over the course of our franchise we are investing money in improvements across many of our stations, including Sleaford where there will be improved interchange and station enhancements. The Department for Transport’s Access for All Scheme provides funding for larger accessibility schemes.

“We have a free assisted travel service that has helped thousands of mobility impaired passengers with their travel and can be booked through our website at https://www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/trains-stations/assisted-travel”.