Labour disability campaigner slams accessibility at Biggleswade railway station
PUBLISHED: 11:36 17 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:36 17 November 2017
A leading disability campaigner has spoken out about the lack of access to Biggleswade railway station.
Emily Brothers from Disability Labour – the party’s national network for disabled people – is blind and hard of hearing, and travels with her guide dog Truffle all over the country to speak to Labour Party branches and other groups on disability issues.
When she travelled to Biggleswade to speak with members of the North East Beds Labour Party last Wednesday, Govia Thameslink – which runs the Great Northern service – had to put on a taxi to take her from Hitchin railway station to Biggleswade station because there is no lift or passenger assistance available at the latter.
Emily then had to change cars because the taxi was only insured to take her to the station and could not cover the extra 0.1-mile distance to the Labour Party’s base in Crab Lane.
She told the Comet: “Being at an unmanned station at night when you are disabled and blind and there are fast freight trains rushing past is quite a scary experience.
“It is a disgrace that Biggleswade station is a ‘no go’ place for disabled people. Travel for work or leisure is a fundamental right, but disabled people are still excluded by inaccessible buildings and policies. Companies like Govia/Great Northern need to do better and be less rigid in their response to difficulties.
She added: “I am also concerned for the safety of other passengers, particularly other women travelling through Biggleswade station at night, and for the elderly and disabled people who might need assistance.”
North East Beds MP Alistair Burt has been campaigning on the issue as has the local Labour party. Conservative Mr Burt said recently he is working with Govia, Central Bedfordshire Council and the town council to identify how to obtain government funding to improve the station. Any physical changes to the station itself would be overseen by Network Rail, which owns it.
A Govia spokesman said: “We work very hard to make our services accessible for everybody, and we have tried and tested procedures in place to assist passengers needing help when stations are unstaffed. We care very much about providing the best possible assistance and are pleased to have been able to offer to help Ms Brothers attend her meeting by providing a taxi between Hitchin and Biggleswade stations.”