EXCLUSIVE: Merseytravel agree £3.38 million of investment in improving access for the disabled at Birkenhead North station
Last Thursday at its Annual Meeting, Merseytravel agreed £3.38 million of investment in improved disabled access at Birkenhead North train station. Merseytravel received £1 million towards the project from Network Rail’s “Access for All” fund, £1.2 million from Network Rail’s Enhancement Fund and a further £300,000 from Network Rail. The work is planned to be completed by March 2014.
Wirral councillors welcomed the news. Cllr Steve Foulkes told those present at the meeting that it was his local station and that completing the link to the car park would have a beneficial effect on residential parking at Birkenhead Park. Cllr John Salter thanked officers for coming forward with the proposals and referred to the regeneration going on in the area, such as Peel’s plans for an International Trade Centre.
John Brace, pictured in the photo who started campaigning for improved disabled access at Birkenhead North railway station in 2008 said, “The news surrounding the planned work to improve disabled access at Birkenhead North railway station by next year is welcome. Neil Scales, the former Chief Executive of Merseytravel stated in a letter to myself in 2008 that “Merseytravel’s … aim is to provide step free access at all stations on Merseyside.”
“There is a footbridge at Bidston and stepped ramps at both Upton and Birkenhead Park railway station, so there is still a long way to go before stations in the local area are accessible. A legal case in the Court of Appeal in 2004, Roads v Central Trains Ltd  EWCA Civ 1541, was brought by a wheelchair user against their local train company because of an inaccessible train station. Mr. Roads was paid £1,097 in compensation (and his legal costs) because of disability discrimination and Central Trains limited was forced (despite an estimated cost of £750,000) to improve disabled access at the train station.”
“People who certain disabilities are entitled to a free public transport pass, yet it is wrong that many disabled people have a pass that they can’t use at their local train station due to access problems. Improving disabled access also makes life easier for cyclists and people pushing pushchairs. I hope that Merseytravel and Merseyrail will take its legal responsibilities seriously not to discriminate against disabled people and improve the other inaccessible stations in the near future. Three Lord Justices agreed that the cost of adapting the train stations is not a reason to discriminate against disabled travellers.”
The report of Merseytravel’s Director of Integrated Transport Services about the Birkenhead North access improvements can be read here, as well as an enclosure showing the new design and a further enclosure detailing key risks of the project.