Ministers visit station to get new disability access campaign on track
Shadow transport minister Andy McDonald MP, shadow rail minister Rachael Maskell MP and Mohammad Yasin, Labour MP for Bedford, paid a visit to Biggleswade railway station on Wednesday to consider the need to improve access and station facilities.
Campaigners including commuters, residents, Biggleswade Town councillors, and North East Beds MP Alistair Burt have been pushing Network Rail to introduce disabled access and lifts at the station and to increase the availability of ticket office opening hours and staffing levels.
It comes as increasing numbers of commuters from new housing developments around the town are using the station to get to London.
In spite of the weather there was a large turnout of disability campaigners and members of the public. Mr McDonald and Ms Maskell listened to the experiences of people affected by the lack of equal access at the station. Great Northern management also attended the visit and spoke to the sizeable crowd which included wheelchair and guide dog users.
Julian Vaughan, the Labour Party candidate for North East Bedfordshire in last year’s General Election and chair of the Bedfordshire Rail Access Network, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Andy, Rachael and Mohammad to Biggleswade. so they could see for themselves the problems caused by the lack of step free access. Our campaign group will work with Great Northern, National Rail and Alistair Burt to improve access at the station, but on a national level the Government must reverse the cuts they have made to the Access for All scheme.”
Mr Burt met recently with representatives from the Bedfordshire Rail Access Network campaign group, to discuss the long-standing campaign.
He said afterwards: “It was a valuable meeting. As disability minister in the 1995 to 1997 Government, we worked hard for change through the Disability Discrimination Act. Easier transport and journeys are key and it is very important that progress continues in Bedfordshire.”
Mr Burt also met with key stakeholders from Govia Thameslink – which runs the services on the line – and Network Rail – which owns the station.
Welcoming the ministerial visit, he added: “As well as providing step-free access, we must consider a wider plan which could also improve parking and public transport provision to and from the station. Discussions are continuing among the key parties, including putting together a strategy to achieve these initiatives, and I look forward to meeting again in the spring to discuss progress.”