Access to railway stations in Wales is “unacceptable”, with more than half of the 221 stations across Wales not fully accessible, according to a new report by a committee of politicians.
The report by the Welsh assembly’s equality of opportunity committee said there were “significant shortcomings” in access, with a third of stations having no wheelchair access to platforms and 89 per cent of stations having no wheelchair-accessible toilets.
But the report fails to recommend a “full upgrading” of all stations, because it says the cost would be “prohibitively expensive”, and instead recommends a “process of prioritisation”.
The report also warns that there has been a failure by industry and government to reach a consensus on what level of accessibility to aim for.
Among the problems highlighted in the report are footbridge-only access to platforms, unreliable lifts, large gaps between trains and platforms, understaffing and a lack of clear audio-visual information.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission passed the committee examples of complaints it had received from disabled people, including a passenger told he could not travel by rail from Swansea to London unless he gave 12 hours’ notice to open the gate leading onto the station, and a wheelchair-user told he might not be able to travel from Pembrokeshire to Cardiff if the ramps were being used on another platform.
The Neath Port Talbot Disability Network told the committee that a wheelchair-user who wanted to travel into Port Talbot Station at 6pm on a Sunday evening would have to travel to either Neath or Bridgend and then use a taxi to get to Port Talbot.
And research by the MS Society found 83 per cent of all stations in Wales were unstaffed, with only six staffed 24-hours-a-day.
The Welsh Assembly Government does not have full control over the Welsh railway network, with stations owned by Network Rail and leased by Arriva Trains Wales, which also runs many of the train services, and much of railway policy controlled by the UK government’s Department for Transport.
But the report calls on Welsh ministers to use the powers they have to increase funding, and to lobby the UK government to prioritise access improvements when it sets targets for Network Rail for 2014-2018.
The report also calls for a greater involvement of disabled people in planning and monitoring access improvements, and more access information to be displayed in stations.
And the committee wants the Welsh government to encourage councils and other public bodies to work with the rail industry to encourage the take-up of disabled people’s railcards.