RORY’S CAMPAIGNING PAYS OFF AS PENRITH STATION NOMINATED FOR DFT UPGRADE
Rory has welcomed the news that Penrith station has been nominated for funding under the Department for Transport’s ‘Access for All’ scheme, after a three-year lobbying campaign of the Government, Network Rail and Virgin Trains to take action over access concerns at the station.
The funding bid – if successful – would see Penrith’s northbound platform upgraded to allow improved access for disabled passengers, who currently have no option but to be guided across a dangerous and outdated barrow crossing.
Rory instigated a debate on disabled access at stations in Parliament earlier this year in July, during which he praised the record of recent Governments in supporting those with disabilities, but said that transport remains the last great challenge in the campaign for disabled rights. He argued that a new lift at Penrith could be “not just an article of public convenience, but a symbol of British civilisation.”
Penrith station receives up to fourteen booked requests for disabled assistance daily, and many more unbooked requests but it remains the only station on the West Coast Mainline which is not accessible for wheelchair users. Rory’s campaign received the backing of Virgin Trains, the franchise operator, as well as the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin who visited the station in August at Rory’s invitation and acknowledged the need for urgent improvements to be made.
Network Rail has submitted its nominations to the Department for Transport and a decision will be made on the allocation of funds by April.
Rory said: “This is fantastic news, although we are not there quite yet. The Department must review all bids and assess them, but I am hopeful that we might soon see these majorly overdue improvements at Penrith.
Disabled access matters enormously. The number of disabled people using trains has risen by 58% over the last five years, that’s 72 million rail journeys by disabled people in 2012 alone.
But this is also important for the elderly, those with push chairs and even tourists, who have to negotiate 45 steps with a 35kg suitcase.
I have been extremely pleased by the response to the campaign and this news is a huge step forward in making Penrith station a facility that can be used safely and conveniently by everyone.
Please do continue to let me know of your personal experiences of Penrith station, in order that I can continue to lobby the Department.”