Bitter blow for disabled passengers as station access scheme is cancelled
PUBLISHED: 07:38 07 August 2019 | UPDATED: 07:38 07 August 2019
A much-needed project to improve access at Nailsea and Backwell Railway Station has been pulled due to a huge funding shortfall, leaving campaigners 'bitterly disappointed'.
Campaigners have been embroiled in an 11-year battle to improve access at the station as there is no ramp on the south platform so disabled passengers have to get off at Bristol and catch a taxi back to Nailsea and Backwell.
A ramp was due to be installed in 2011, but work was shelved at the last minute due to urgent maintenance work.
In 2016, Great Western Railway (GWR) decided to install lifts instead due to fears the ramp could destabilise the embankment and it has spent £400,000 developing the scheme.
The project has now been aborted as it would cost more than £10million to complete.
Campaigner Alison Morgan said: "I feel totally disillusioned and let down by GWR which has delayed and dragged their heels over the years while constantly assuring me they were 'fully committed' and 'shovel ready'.
"Instead of working with Network Rail to strengthen the embankment and install a ramp as originally planned, the proposed provision of lifts has over-complicated the project and increased the costs."
Alison believes funding should come from other sources as the elderly, cyclists, those with mobility issues and parents with pushchairs also have trouble accessing the station and she has vowed to continue fighting for improvements.
Councillors Bridget Petty and James Tonkin, who represent Backwell and Nailsea for North Somerset Council, said: "We are bitterly disappointed the station is not going to receive this much-needed access funding.
"It's completely unacceptable less-able travellers will continue to be penalised in this way.
"We will continue to fight for this essential improvement work at the station and won't give up. Access for all is a right not a privilege."
Installing the lifts would cost £4.9million and GWR confirmed it would also need to spend money on widening the platforms and installing CCTV, lighting and upgrading the power supply for the lifts.
GWR and Network Rail applied for extra funding from the Department for Transport's Access for All programme without success.
The company said it has 'no choice but to pause the plan.
A spokesman said: "This is not the outcome we wanted, but we will be unable to fund such significant extra cost without substantial financial support."