Suffolk stations get help to improve access for people with disabilities
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Greater Anglia has been awarded funding to improve disabled access to two stations in Suffolk.
The company has secured Access for All funding - a Government funding programme for schemes to improve station access - for Needham Market and Bury St Edmunds stations.
This means that Needham Market will receive an upgrade to improve access to the Ipswich-bound platform two at the station after a long campaign locally.
The application was part of a co-ordinated partnership approach between Greater Anglia, Suffolk County Council, Mid Suffolk Council and the Needham Market Group.
At Bury St Edmunds, the funding means that a new accessible entrance can be built on the north side of the station, linking the newly-built car park with the station concourse. This bid was supported by West Suffolk Council, Bury St Edmunds Town Trust and other local organisations.
At Needham Market, work on Mid Suffolk District Council's new visitors' centre at neighbouring Needham Lake is due to start later this year, with the station improvements set to provide a direct access route between the town and the popular beauty spot for the first time.
Simone Bailey, Greater Anglia's Asset Management Director, said: "We are absolutely delighted to hear that our proactive funding bids for Bury St Edmunds and Needham Market stations have been successful, enabling us to make rail travel more accessible at these stations.
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"We are very grateful to our partner organisations who worked with us to get this fantastic result for stations in Suffolk.
"Along with the enhanced accessibility features of our new fleet of trains, this funding means that we are really starting to transform rail travel for people with disabilities and other accessibility needs, making it much easier for them to travel."
Gerard Brewster, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for economic growth said: "This is wonderful news, not just for railway passengers but for Needham Market as a whole.
"This funding complements our work to improve facilities at Needham Lake and also reflects our emerging vision for the town - bringing more visitors to the high street and improving connectivity for the whole area."
Needham Market campaign co-ordinator Jen Overett said: "I am delighted by the news that our station has been granted this much-needed funding from Government. Full step-free access has been long-awaited and will make such a positive difference to our town and surrounding villages.
"Local residents have run a strong campaign, which began several years ago but has picked up renewed momentum in recent years. I'm very grateful to the whole campaign group, the thousands of people who have signed our petition and offered words of support, and the active backing of Mid Suffolk District and Suffolk County Councils and cross-party local councillors. I look forward to the work getting started and a fully accessible station at last."
Greater Anglia was also successful in gaining funding for a new lift at Colchester station in Essex.
The company has commissioned a team of accessibility and inclusion trainers to deliver regular sessions over the next two years to ensure its 2,500 strong workforce feels empowered to help improve the journeys of people with accessibility needs.
This makes Greater Anglia the first operator in the country to implement accessibility courses that meet the rail regulator's new standards, ahead of new rules that come in during 2021 requiring all train operators to undertake such training.