News 2 July 2016

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No-go rail station

The long and arduous route to installing disabled access ramps at Nailsea and Backwell railway station is to be the subject of a hard-hitting television documentary.

For nearly a decade Access For All campaigners have petitioned, threatened court action, appealed to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and asked for public support to get various railiway franchises to install ramps at the railway station which is on the Bristol to Exeter line.

The station which sits on top of a 40ft embankment opened in 1841 and has two platforms but little in the way of facilities which disappeared after years of cuts and privatisation.

Even on the National Rail website it admits there is no staff available to help and no ramp for wheelchairs saying ‘steep flight of steps to southbound platform…ramped access to northbound platform steeper than 1:12 gradient, no wheelchair access available to trains’.

And even if a disabled person made it to the platform the next hurdle would be a large height difference from the train doors to the platform.

Back in 2011 everyone thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel when the government announced a £37.5 million scheme to improve stations under an Access For All Mid-Tier programme which allocated £1,023,000 to building new ramps at Nailsea and Backwell.

The works should have started in 2013 but were delayed until 2014 due to a need to repair subsidence on the embankment and wait for works by North Somerset Council to improve the car park.

But due to the delays the funding was withdrawn and the fiasco still continues today.

Nailsea resident Alison Morgan who was instrumental in getting the footpath under the railway bridge widened and an user-friendly path built at Backwell Lake has been involved from the beginning.

She said: “Channel Four News No Go Britain programme has taken up the stories of the inaccessibility of Nailsea & Backwell and Weston-super-Mare rail stations.

“A film crew came to the Old Farmhouse pub at Nailsea this week to interview myself and fellow wheelchair-user Andy Hull about the never-ending saga of ramps at Nailsea & Backwell and the general horrors of using public transport as a disabled person.

“We were joined by Steve Ledbrook, a fellow disability campaigner, from Weston who talked about the problems he encounters travelling by train to London for Trailblazers meetings at the Houses of Parliament.

“Steve is a member of Trailblazers which is a campaign group of young people organized by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

“We are all members of North Somerset Council's Disabled Access Group.

“Despite assurances from Great Western Rail that work would commence at Nailsea & Backwell this summer nothing has happened and No Go Britain were appalled at the fact that we have been campaigning since 2008 and all that has happened funding wise in between.

“No Go Britain are compiling a report into transport issues for disabled people across the country to be broadcast later this year.

“They are highlighting the fact that, despite all the attention and investment following the 2012 Paralympics in London, very little has improved beyond the centre of London.”

And as an added twist for the film crew journeying to Nailsea Alison reports that ‘the Ch4 team were going to come down by train to interview us but as they are disabled as well they opted to come by car as it less complicated and more reliable...ironic or what?”

A GWR spokesman said previously: "At stations where we haven't been able to physically change the layout or install ramps or lifts, such as Nailsea & Backwell, we do everything we can to accommodate customers and have an assisted travel hotline, through which people can book help in advance of their journey.

"If there is no disabled access at one of our stations, we will arrange for a taxi to take customers to another station, at no extra cost, where they can access the platforms and trains and continue their journey.”

PHOTOS: From top left a Google map image of station steps; 

below Alison, Andy, Steve and the C4 news crew filming at The Old Farmhouse, Nailsea;

and  a screengrab of government petition and how a station with ramp can look 

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