Campaigners meet with government minister to discuss station access
A group of campaigners set on making Needham Market station accessible for all were invited to Westminster yesterday for a formal meeting at the Department for Transport.
The campaign representatives met with Nusrat Ghani MP, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport (DfT), to voice their concerns about limited mobility access at the station – which they say disadvantages residents travelling with wheelchairs, buggies, bikes and heavy luggage.
The meeting was attended by Jennifer Nott, former chair of Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis UK; Wendy Marchant, Needham Market district councillor; Terence Carter, town councillor; and Jen Overett, lead petitioner.
MP Jo Churchill, who has shown ongoing support for the campaign, was also present.
The campaign was launched in May 2017, when a number of commuters expressed their frustration at the fact that the Ipswich-bound platform is accessible only by a steep underground stairway – meaning wheelchair-bound passengers en route to London are forced to take taxis for the first leg of their journey.
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This is despite a £700,000 scheme carried out at the station in 2015 by Greater Anglia, promising improvements to the platform, subway and stairs.
In March, the campaigners presented their 1,400-signature petition to the former transport secretary, Chris Grayling.
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Their aim was to secure an Access for All grant, part of a scheme introduced in 2006 and extended in 2014 with the vision to improve access at hundreds of Britain’s stations.
The funding would give campaigners the opportunity to pursue step-free solutions.
Ms Overett said: “We particularly welcome this opportunity to meet with Minister Ghani, given her statement in Parliament earlier this year that ‘this government is committed to improving station access for disabled people, including those with hidden disabilities.’
“We hope to hear from the minister that she supports the secretary of state in his stated wish, when we met with him on March 28, to identify ‘pragmatic solutions’ for providing step-free access at smaller stations where the failure to meet the needs of disabled passengers is particularly extreme.”