Boost for campaigners in battle for disabled access at Suffolk railway station
Needham Market station could potentially be fitted with step-free access if campaigners are able to secure a slice of a new £300million government investment.
Campaigners keen to improve access at Needham Market station have received a boost after it was announced a further £300million will be pumped into the Government’s Access for All programme.
In its Inclusive Transport Strategy, published on Wednesday, July 25, the Department for Transport (DfT) revealed it would be making the funding available to extend the programme until 2024.
The news was welcomed by the campaigners, who have been fighting to introduce step-free access at Needham Market station for over a year.
Jen Overett, Lead Petitioner, said: “The £300million of new funding from 2019 is much needed and I’m delighted that government appears to be listening to the voices of disabled people and to the campaigns across the country, including ours, which have been working to highlight current inadequate provision.
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“Let’s hope that real change results from this new government strategy, and that step-free access can be achieved at Needham Market station at last.”
The group will now need to formally apply for an Access for All grant, funded by the DfT and delivered largely by Network Rail.
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The Needham Market campaign was launched in May 2017, when a number of commuters expressed their frustration at the fact the Ipswich-bound platform is accessible only by a steep stairway – meaning wheelchair-bound passengers en route to London are forced to take taxis for the first leg of their journey.
This is despite a £700,000 improvement scheme carried out at the station in 2015 by Greater Anglia, promising improvements to the platform, subway and stairs.
In October 2017 Suffolk County Council confirmed it would be writing to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, informing him it would be applying for an Access for All grant on behalf of campaigners.
Then in February of this year, councillors Wendy Marchant and Mike Norris announced they would be taking a petition with 1,400 signatures to the Ministry of Transport in London.
A group of campaigners have since met with both Chris Grayling and disability minister Nusrat Ghani to discuss their concerns.
The programme was given £378million of funding when it was launched in 2006, and a further £110million when it was extended in 2015.