A transport minister has announced £600,000 funding for seven digital projects to help disabled passengers access rail travel, days after her department confirmed another minister had rubber-stamped tens of millions of pounds in cuts to a separate rail access scheme.
Nusrat Ghani, the transport accessibility minister, said this week that the seven “innovative, high-tech schemes” to improve access to rail travel for disabled passengers would share the £600,000 funding.
The successful schemes include a mobile phone app to help station staff prioritise requests for support from disabled passengers; a website to help disabled passengers navigate transport interchanges; a study of how well frontline rail staff understand invisible impairments; and an app that aims to make rail travel easier for users of British Sign Language.
The seven schemes succeeded in a competition run by the Rail Safety and Standards Board.
Ghani said: “I am determined to make sure that our railways are accessible to everyone, and that we remove any barriers faced by people with a disability.”
But her announcement came only days after her own department finally confirmed to Disability News Service that it had rubber-stamped cuts of tens of millions of pounds to its Access for All rail station access improvement programme.
Two years ago, the chair of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, published a report on “replanning” his organisation’s investment programme for 2014-19 across England and Wales.
He recommended that funding for the Access for All station improvement programme should be cut by nearly £50 million, from £102 million to £55 million (in addition to another £32 million carried over from uncompleted work in 2009-14).
The rest of the funding was to be carried over to 2019-24, but with no guarantee that it would not be used to disguise lower spending on access improvements in future years.