Pressure mounts over disabled access at rail station platforms
Pressure is mounting for all the region’s railway station platforms to have proper access for disabled passengers.
Calls came for “half accessible” stations to be sorted out at the latest Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) overview and scrutiny committee.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen announced he was putting £1million towards efforts to improve access at Billingham railway station at the end of October.
Stockton Council has lined up £200,000 for the scheme – and leaders have their fingers crossed on a bid for £800,000 to the government’s access for all scheme to sort the station.
But there have been calls for stations elsewhere in the region to be improved.
Chairwoman Councillor Norma Stephenson could not believe there were inaccessible stations in 2019.
She added: “If you can’t get a train in the first place, then you cannot get off it to get a bus.
“I know Dame Tanni Grey Thompson couldn’t get access to Eaglescliffe and the response from Network Rail was to get a taxi to one to where you can.
“This is 2019 so I would appreciate disabled access being a priority.”
Elsewhere, Teesside Airport railway station only has ramped access for Darlington-bound trains.
Northern operates many stations on Teesside, including the airport and South Bank.
TVCA head of transport Tom Bryant said combined authority didn’t have direct control over the stations and had to work with train firms to make improvements.
A spokesman for Northern said accessibility was a priority for the firm - adding it was "in the early stages of a modernisation programme" to make trains and stations more accessible.
He added: “We are also working to further educate and inform our staff about accessibility issues and how they can provide the best possible assistance to our customers.
“Sadly these changes cannot be introduced overnight and our network currently contains trains and stations which were not designed to meet the needs of all customers.
"We do, however, aim to provide the best possible service and want to hear from our customers when journeys have fallen short of expectations."