Nine-year fight for pedestrian ramp at railway station thwarted as it's deemed 'high risk'

A nine-year fight to keep a pedestrian access ramp for Albrighton Railway Station has been thwarted by the Department of Transport.

Rod Smith, Secretary of the Albrighton Civic Society, at the closed off ramped access
Rod Smith, Secretary of the Albrighton Civic Society, at the closed off ramped access

The station's southbound platform 1, providing links to Wolverhampton and Birmingham had, until 2013, only been accessible via a Victorian footbridge.

When that was taken away for repair a temporary ramp/pathway was created, a welcome addition for those who found using the bridge difficult or impossible. It was used for six months then closed.

A campaign was launched to reopen it. However, despite extensive work by the specially formed Albrighton Ramp Team, the bid to retain it has been turned down by the Government department's Access for All body because it is deemed too steep for wheelchair access.

A fence between the ramp and the platform prevents anyone using it meaning those with mobility problems, parents with prams and pushchairs and others have to struggle with the steep stairs on the footbridge or not use the station to travel into the Midlands.

The Victorian footbridge that passengers have to negotiate at Albrighton station

A DfT spokesperson said: "Everyone should be able to travel with confidence on our railways, and it's crucial that stations maintain standards that are safe for wheelchair users."

The ramp team, a joint venture between Albrighton Parish Council and the Albrighton and District Civic Society has been disbanded in despair.

Rod Smith secretary of the Civic Society said: "While the ramp is too steep for use by people in wheelchairs it does provide a much easier access than the four flights of stairs of the footbridge for many older people, those with mobility impairments not needing wheelchairs, people with luggage or bicycles and parents/carers with pushchairs and toddlers.

A 1,700-signature petition had 96 per cent voting to re-open the ramp.

Mr Smith said that the campaign had had the backing of Albrighton and three neighbouring parish councils, Shropshire Council, West Midlands Trains, EE Telecommunications, which owns the land the ramp is on, and Network Rail.

Albrighton Railway Station

Network Rail offered to install new ViperRail hand rails with lighting and West Midlands Trains agreed to carry out maintenance while Shropshire Council had agreed to build a new footpath on Station Road to join up to the ramp.

Parish Councillor, David Beechey, chairman of the Ramp Team until it was disbanded, said: "We went to great lengths to consult people about this all were in favour from Shropshire Disabilities Group to rail operators. We know that people in wheelchairs can't access the ramp. However at the moment there are many more people that can't access the platform."

West Midlands Trains in support said: "We are aware that the pedestrian access ramp itself does not fully meet the current gradient specifications and that there is no easy fix. However whilst in an ideal world we would want all ramp infrastructure to meet the latest standards it will positively impact across a wider range of people."

Replying to a request for dispensation to allow the ramp to be re-opened, the Department of Transport wrote: "We are of the opinion that the ramp has gradients that are far steeper than those required to meet accessibility standards, and this would pose a high risk of injury to any passengers that use the ramp for access to and from the station."

Rod Smith at the closed off ramped access

At its steepest point, it is almost four times steeper than the standards allow, and no part of the ramp would be safe to use for wheelchair users.

"We are currently undertaking a full accessibility audit across 2,564 stations across Great Britain to help shape future investment in accessible rail travel."

The re-opening also has the backing of MP Mark Pritchard and of Shropshire Vice Lord Lieutenant, Jenny Wynn.

The Vice Lord Lieutenant said: "We are aware the ramp is not suitable for wheelchairs. However others with mobility issues who use walking frames or walking sticks will be able to use the ramp. While it would be preferable for the ramp to have flatter slopes do we want have have Network Rail spend more money to demolish this asset or bring it back into use by being granted a Dispensation against the Design Standards for Accessible Railway Stations.

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