MP asks Transport Minister about disabled access at local railway stations

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Yesterday evening Nus Ghani MP for Wealden used an adjournment debate to raise the matter of step-free access upgrades at Wealden train stations, Blue Badge parking at Eridge station and to probe the Minister on investment into the electrification of the Uckfield Line and a new depot in Crowborough.

I now draw the Minister’s attention to the Uckfield line, which causes the most amount of tension for my constituents. It used to be called “the misery line” and for quite some time we have been trying to get it electrified and get a depot at Crowborough; at the moment the line is a real dinosaur. It would be fantastic if we could have an upgrade. As the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Southern Rail, I have raised this matter repeatedly with the Department, the Minister and his predecessors. It would be fantastic if the Minister could make reference to that at the Dispatch Box or write to me to say if the campaign for an upgrade to the Uckfield line will be fruitful.

Nus Ghani MP for Wealden

Adjournment debates are held on the motion ‘that the House (or sitting) do now adjourn’. The term refers to the short debate that takes place at the end of each day’s sitting in the House of Commons. They are an opportunity for a backbench MP to raise an issue and receive a response from the relevant Minister.

Having served as Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Ms Ghani was responsible for delivering the Inclusive Transport Strategy, which paved the way to equal access to all transport networks for people with visible and invisible disabilities.

Ms Ghani used the opportunity to highlight that 41% of rail stations in Britain currently lack step free and this rises to 52% in the South East.

She referred to the multi-million-pound funding secured for Eridge and Crowborough stations which are currently undergoing refurbishments to ensure step-free access, but urged the Minister to ensure that Blue Badge parking is delivered alongside these improvements.

She also stressed the recent safety upgrades to Frant and Wadhurst stations, which have had warning tactile installed and a contrasting line painted to support people with sight loss. However, both these stations currently lack step-free access. Ms Ghani is keen to keep the momentum and pressed the Minister on ensuring that these upgrades are delivered in Frant and Wadhurst in the near future.

Ms Ghani also stressed the need of a major investment into the electrification of the Uckfield Line a new depot in Crowborough, and pressed for the Minister’s assurances as to when this investment will take place.

I’m pleased to have secured this important debate and bring disability access upgrades in Wealden to the Minister’s attention. Train travel is a vital form of transport for Wealden residents and securing improvements to rail services in Wealden remains one of my priorities. I have raised the matter of the electrification of the Uckfield Line repeatedly with the Department and will continue this quest to get a firm commitment as to when any major investment will take place.

I am grateful for the funds that I have already secured for fantastic accessibility upgrades to Crowborough, Eridge, Wadhurst and Frant train stations, but more needs to be done. The Minister committed to joining me in Wealden to celebrate the opening of Eridge and Crowborough once the refurbishments are completed and I also welcome his assurances of future funding coming to Wealden.

Nus Ghani MP for Wealden

As a qualified football referee, the Transport Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, speaking just before the start of the England-Denmark match slipped a few puns into his response. However he made it clear that he didn’t want this to undermine the importance he gives the subject of access for the disabled:

It is a subject that I take incredibly seriously; however, she will also be aware that I am a qualified and active football referee, just about to enter my 40th season in the middle, and an interesting and important game of association football commences shortly. I might just stick in the odd pun, because I am keen to kick off this debate, but I assure her that delivering a slightly light-hearted speech on this matter does not mean that I do not take it extremely seriously.

Chris Heaton-Harris, Minister of State Department for Transport

The full debate is available to watch here.

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