The Department for Transport answers Transport Business International’s questions about the Access for All scheme
There is no single measure or estimate of disability, but suggested figures for the number of disabled people in Britain is around 10 million.
Expanding access to the UK’s railways is not a new priority. In the early 1980’s British Rail established an advisory group of disabled people to inform them on how to improve access. The Railways Act 1993 made specific provisions in respect of disabled people to ensure that their needs were taken into account by train operators, including having to produce a Disabled People’s Protection Policy and work in accordance with a statutory Code of Practice.
Specific provision was made in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA 1995) to ensure that station operators do not discriminate against disabled people and that all new trains meet improved accessibility standards. As a result over 4,300 rail vehicles currently meet these standards and following the changes introduced in the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA 2005) all rail vehicles will have to meet these standards by a date no later than 2020.
The Access for All Programme is part of the Railways for All Strategy, launched in 2006 to address the issues faced by disabled passengers using railway stations in Great Britain. Central to the Strategy is the ring-fencing of £35m funding per year, until 2015, for provision of an obstacle free, accessible route to and between platforms at priority stations. This generally includes the provision of lifts or ramps, as well as associated works and refurbishment along the defined route.
In this article Transport Business asks the Department for Transport to explain a bit more about the programme.
Q What is being done concerning rail travel for disabled passengers under your Access for All scheme?
A The 145 stations selected under the main programme will receive an accessible, obstacle free, route into the station and to and between each platform. This will usually need to include new lifts and is being delivered by Network Rail.
In addition, we have Small Schemes Funding available that local authorities, TOCs and other 3rd parties can bid for. So far we have offered funding for schemes at over 1,000 stations for a variety of schemes including colour contrasting handrails, accessible toilets, Blue Badge Car parking spaces and customer information systems. Small Schemes Funding has also supported staff training materials, and a programme of access audits to improve the information held about station facilities.
Q What is the role of the DfT (in terms of this scheme)?
A The DfT sponsors effective delivery of the programme, as part of the government’s ongoing objective to improve access to the railway network. Through consultation with train operators, PTEs and other stakeholders, DfT (or Transport Scotland in Scotland) selects and prioritises stations for inclusion in the main programme to determine the ‘customer requirement’ that Network Rail is tasked to deliver. Both DfT and TS are working closely with Network Rail to monitor delivery.
DfT also manages the annual bidding rounds and funding grants for the Small Schemes programme, which are paid directly to successful bidders on completion of the scheme.
Q How much funding is being dedicated for this project for rail travel?
A £370m at 04/05 prices, ring-fenced until 2015. This is split into around £35m for main schemes and around £6m a year for Small Schemes.
Q Are there any specific locations targeted to implement the scheme?
A A list of the stations included in the main and Small Schemes Programmes is available from the DfT website.
Q How are you working with the train operating companies?
A Network Rail works very closely with the TOCs holding regular local project meetings with them for each site. In addition the Association of Train Operating Companies is represented on the Railways for All Industry Steering Group, part of the governance for the programme. On Small Schemes many of the schemes are being project managed by TOCs and the DfT programme management team have a very close working relationship with them.
Q How are the suppliers being used to implement the scheme chosen?
A The main scheme contracting process is managed by Network Rail, not by the Department. Following an initial option selection and outline design process for each station, Network Rail invites tenders for the work, and award contracts to the successful bidder in line with their procurement processes. This can also include the option for TOCs to deliver the works, where this has been discussed and agreed by the relevant Local Delivery Group.
Q What is the timescale of the implementation of the scheme?
A The programme was launched in 2006 and will run until 2015. So far 28 main scheme stations have been completed and we fully expect the remainder to be open before the end of 2015. Estimated completion dates for each station are available from the Network Rail website. Successful bids for Small Schemes funding need to be completed within the financial year for which the funding is allocated.