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Plans to help access for disabled rail users in Wales

13 February 10 08:47 GMT

An inquiry is being held into how access can be improved at railway stations for disabled people, which campaigners say is "long overdue".

The Welsh assembly's equality of opportunity committee is looking into facilities, staff levels and access to stations and train platforms.

It is asking for disabled people and organisations to suggest ways rail travel could be improved.

Disability Wales said it was "delighted" action was being taken.

Miranda Evans, policy and public affairs manager at the organisation, which has been asked to give evidence to the inquiry, said access to stations was currently "quite ad-hoc in Wales depending on which services you get".

She said: "Lack of accessibility can make it very difficult for disabled people to be spontaneous.

"You have to book assistance in advance at the station you are leaving from. But you can't book it at the station you are going to and so you can't guarantee help at the other end.

"In other cases, you can't get down to the station because there are no lifts. It's quite a daunting experience and it means a lot of people end up not travelling by train."

She said she was pleased action was finally being taken by the assembly to try to address the issues.

"People have lobbied for years and years about this," she said.

"It's been an ongoing battle for many. Hopefully this inquiry will raise awareness and lead to improved rail infrastructure for everyone. It's long overdue."

Simon Green, a wheelchair user who is chair of the Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, said transport issues were one of his "biggest gripes".

"I think this is massively overdue. I have spoken to a lot of people about this, not just wheelchair users, but people who are visually impaired or who cannot hear properly and there lots of things that need to be improved," he said.

"Access is just one issue. For instance if I go on a night out with my friends, I can't get the last train back to Bridgend as nobody would be at the station to open the side gate and I can't get over the footbridge.

"A lot of train companies also like you to book about two days ahead to have a wheelchair space - and you can often be on the phone for 45 minutes. It's very frustrating.

"You have to plan everything. For instance, I had to go from Bridgend to Ramsgate in Kent. I got the train to Paddington but because there is no lift to the underground there, I had to get a bus to Victoria Station and a train to Ramgate from there. It took me about an hour to sort all the ramps out for that.

"And there are also issues like the fact that wheelchair spaces are often on their own on trains so you can't sit by friends. It's as if they were an afterthought.

"But it's something that should be thought about."

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