Almost half of Scottish rail stations still not step-free

Danielle from Irvine is among rail passengers reliant on step-free stations. Picture: Leonard Cheshire
Danielle from Irvine is among rail passengers reliant on step-free stations. Picture: Leonard Cheshire
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Scottish rail passengers with wheelchairs, pushchairs and heavy luggage are far worse off than those in England because nearly half of their stations still do not have step-free access.

A total of 47 per cent of stations north of the Border have steps compared to 38 per cent across Britain, according to disability campaigners Leonard Cheshire.

It wants legislation to ensure all stations are step-free within a decade because at the current rate the UK government-funded work will not be completed for 50 years.

Stuart Robertson, director of Leonard Cheshire in Scotland, said: “Our research demonstrates that the current rail network is excluding many disabled people from making journeys which others take for granted.

“As families look to enjoy the festive season together, accessibility issues will add unnecessary stress to disabled travellers who negotiate a sub-standard network every day.

"We call on the UK Government to prioritise the acceleration of the ‘Access for All’ funding programme to modernise train stations, so disabled people can enjoy the life opportunities provided through accessible rail travel.”

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Leonard Cheshire said improvements had been made since 2006 under the Access to All fund.

Over the last five years, six Scottish stations have seen upgrades - Blairhill, Elgin, Hamilton Central, Kilmarnock, Kilwinning and Westerton.

By 2024, they are due to be joined by Anniesland, Dumfries, Port Glasgow and Uddingston among 73 across the UK.

The group produced the figures from analysis of station information on the official National Rail website.

But it was the proportion of step-free stations was likely to be lower because several had step-free access to only some platforms.

The British figure compares to over 40 per cent stations not being step-free last year.

Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Colin Smyth said: “The fact that almost half of Scotland’s rail stations are inaccessible to disabled people is utterly unacceptable.

“Everyone deserves to be able to travel and commute at their will.

“That disabled people today still face such obstacles is entirely wrong and action must be taken to ensure they are able to enjoy the same quality of life as others.”

A spokesperson for Network Rail, which owns stations, said: “Many of the country’s stations date from the Victorian period and were not designed with the needs of all travellers in mind.

“We are working closely with government to improve access across the railway, upgrading older stations and ensuring all new ones are fully accessible.”

ScotRail, Scotland’s main train operator, said access limitations meant there were “some situations where providing the ideal customer journey is not possible”.

It said its Passenger Assist service provided help to customers who needed it.

A spokesperson said: “We are committed to making the railway open and accessible to all, and provide a free assisted travel service to customers who need a little extra help.”

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A spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency, which has control over most aspects of the railways north of the Border, said: “Rail accessibility is reserved to the UK Government.

“While we work closely with the Department for Transport (DfT) to agree priorities, the final decision rests with them.

“That is why we continue to push for full devolution of rail powers to enable us to better deliver for Scotland’s rail users.

“Our vision is that all disabled people can travel with the same freedom, choice, dignity and opportunity as other citizens.

“Over the course of the next rail funding period (2019-2024) we’ll deliver step-free access at Anniesland, Croy, Dumfries, Johnstone, Port Glasgow, and Uddingston.

“Where there is no disabled access at a station, passengers can make arrangements with ScotRail for taxi transportation to/from the nearest staffed station.”

The agency said it also helped improve accessibility as part of wider rail improvements, such as at Aviemore and Pitlochry stations within the Highland main line upgrade project.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We are acutely aware of the issues faced by disabled passengers, and are fully committed to ensuring equal access for disabled people using the transport system by 2030.

“We have made a huge amount of progress in this area and three in four rail journeys are now through step-free stations, compared to half in 2005.

”We have committed a further £300 million to improve disabled access at 73 stations across Great Britain and we recently opened a £20m fund to make even more stations accessible.”

The DfT said Scotland had received around 10 per cent of Access for All funding since 2006, benefitting 31 stations.