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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Railways under fire on disabled access
Train at Station
Disabled access on trains is still limited
Rail authorities are once again coming under pressure from disabled groups to improve access conditions on the West Coast mainline.

Railtrack admits that more than 120 stations in Scotland are not totally disabled-friendly.

Disabled passengers travelling south to Lockerbie station, for example, are often forced to travel via Carlisle because the entrance is almost completely inaccessible to wheelchair users.

Railtrack has pledged to come up with a solution but says it does not have the funds required to build a ramp bridge.

The Rail Passengers Committee Scotland said the conditions "leave a lot to be desired" and called on the government to help meet the 1bn cost of making the entire Scottish rail network accessible.

I think this is a problem which should not be solved by the rail industry alone

Bill Ure, Rail Users Committee
Disabled train passenger Peter Ingram Monk described how he was forced to sit in the passenger entrance during a train journey to Lockerbie because the interior door was too small for his wheelchair.

He told how he had to travel to Carlisle because he could not use the footbridge leading from the southbound platform at Lockerbie to the station entrance on the north - a diversion which added more than one hour to his journey.

He said: "I expected to be able, once I was aboard, to be able to sit with everyone else in the normal way.

"It's not the way we should be treated."

Mr Ingram Monk said he was far from happy with the situation but had learned to live with disappointment.

He said: "Being the age I am, I'm probably prepared to accommodate it. I've been disabled for over 50 years.

'Historical reasons'

"But for younger people today who have greater expectations, this isn't tolerable at all."

The frustrations felt by Scotland's 40,000 wheelchair users are shared by the Rail Passengers Committee.

However, chairman Bill Ure thinks that it is a problem which is not the sole responsibility of the industry.

Wheelchair access is a problem for many
"I think that there are many parts of Britain's railways, which for historical reasons, leave a lot to be desired for people with disabilities," he said.

"I think this is a problem which should not be solved by the rail industry alone.

"If society says that people with any disabilities should be able to enjoy the full range of facilities and access what everyone else does, society should work with the rail industry - society in the form of government."

Mr Ure said that "every pound" invested by the industry should be matched by the government.

He added: "To make the network fully accessible would cost just over 1bn."

Parliamentary question

Railtrack has pledged to find a solution to the problems at Lockerbie but says it does not have the 500,000 - 700,000 it would take to construct a ramp bridge at the station.

South of Scotland Conservative MSP, David Mundell, raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament last November.

But in a written answer to his question Transport Minister Sarah Boyack said: "Legislation on disability discrimination is a reserved matter.

"However, the Scottish Executive is in regular contact with Railtrack and the train operating companies on improving access to rail services in Scotland.

"I understand that Railtrack is working closely with Dumfries and Galloway Council on securing disabled access at Lockerbie station."

Willie Johnston reports
"More than 120 stations in Scotland are not fully disabled-friendly."
Willie Johnston reports
"The industry says the government must have a role too"
See also:

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24 Jul 01 | Scotland
Passengers hurt in train accident
24 Jul 01 | Business
Crash families stage Railtrack demo
29 Jun 01 | Scotland
Rail firm defends safety record
05 Mar 01 | Scotland
ScotRail attacked over 'fire' panic
11 Dec 00 | Scotland
Flagship trains add to rail woes
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