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Baker applauded for £40 million rail access boost

Baker applauded for £40 million rail access boost
8th December 2011 developer

A transport minister has announced new funding of nearly £40 million to improve access to Britain’s railway stations.

The funding is part of the 10-year Access for All programme launched in 2006 to provide accessible, step-free routes at 148 key stations, through lifts, ramps, raised humps on platforms and new accessible toilets.

Most of the new funding – £37.5 million – is for “mid-tier” projects that need up to £1 million in government cash.

There will be major access improvements affecting more than 40 stations, including London Paddington, St Austell, Stratford-upon-Avon, Swindon, and Ystrad Mynach in south Wales.

Network Rail will receive £500,000 to add tactile edge paving at 27 stations, and £5 million for raised humps on 100 platforms, to reduce the gap for passengers boarding trains.

Transport for All, the accessible transport charity, welcomed the new funding.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: “Transport for All applauds this recognition of the importance of equal access to transport for older and disabled people.

“The improvements will be transformative for disabled and older people living around the area, and their ability to get to work, to see friends and family, and to enjoy the freedom and independence to travel.”

Transport for All has backed campaigns this year for access improvements at two of the London stations awarded funding, Crystal Palace and Hampstead Heath.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport minister, said: “Despite the need to reduce the deficit, we are committed to improving access to stations across the country as this can make a huge difference to people’s lives.

“In recognition of this, and of the large number of high quality bids we received for this funding, we are today announcing projects worth more than double the £17m budget we originally allocated to this programme.”

Baker has also released £57 million from the existing Access for All budget two years earlier than planned – to be used from 2012 instead of 2014 – to allow Network Rail to “accelerate the delivery” of improvements at a further 27 stations.

And he has increased funding from £5 million to £7 million a year for the next three years – starting in April 2012 – so train operating companies can carry out smaller-scale access improvements at the stations they manage, restoring this budget to its pre-spending review level.

A Department for Transport spokesman later confirmed that this £2 million increase and the £37.5 million was “new money” that had not previously been announced by the government.

The Access for All fund was launched with a £370 million government funding pot in 2006, to improve access at train stations across England, Wales and Scotland.

Organisations such as councils and regional transport bodies can bid for cash but must match any funding they secure.

The new funding was announced as RADAR published Doing Transport Differently, a new guide to accessible transport and how to plan journeys, written by and for disabled people.

Liz Sayce, RADAR’s chief executive, said: “In the year of the 2012 games and beyond we want transport that is inclusive of everyone.

“This will benefit disabled individuals, who will gain independence, and transport companies, who will gain customers, and society overall, as more disabled people become more independent.”

The disabled Conservative MP Paul Maynard, a member of the transport select committee, said the guide was “innovative and important” and “provides practical advice and support so that disabled people can take advantage of public transport in the same way everyone else often takes for granted”.