ROCK FERRY: Lack of disabled facilities at train station
Disabled passengers face having miles added to their journeys due to a lack of facilities at one Merseyside train station.
Rock Ferry station in Wirral does not have lifts to allow disabled access despite campaigns going back years to change this.
Those who use wheelchairs or have trouble climbing stairs face an uncomfortable choice.
They can either travel miles to a station with a lift, then change trains and come back on themselves, or they can be carried up the steps of the railway bridge and then down the other side.
This is despite Rock Ferry station being designated as the second most urgent station in need of a lift in a 2018 report by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, after St Michaels in Liverpool.
Stations further down the list, including Hillside (number eight), Hunts Cross (number four) and Birkenhead Park (number five) have all been granted funding, as well as St Michaels, but Rock Ferry station has not.
Clare O’Hagan, Labour’s candidate for Rock Ferry in the local elections, has launched a campaign to change that.
Ms O’Hagan said: “Many Rock Ferry residents face difficulties doing simple things the rest of us take for granted – getting to work, shopping, accessing services or leisure activities.
“Many are socially isolated as a result of obstacles to travel. This is unfair. Improving access at our stations would improve people’s lives but also support business and the local economy.”
Similar projects, such as the addition of lifts to Meols station, have been funded through the department for transport’s Access for All programme.
Cllr Yvonne Nolan, who currently represents Labour in the ward, is a wheelchair user and is deeply unhappy with the situation.
She said: “It’s completely impossible for anyone in a wheelchair, or even someone with poor mobility, or trying to manage small children and a pushchair, to use the footbridge.
“It’s not acceptable that the people in Rock Ferry have to go to other stations to get to Liverpool or Chester. I will be supporting Clare in her fight to improve access for all.”
Mick Whitley, Labour MP for Birkenhead, has written to Grant Shapps, the transport secretary.
The Birkenhead MP said: “The ability to travel on public transport is important for all of us and there should be no barriers to those with restricted mobility. Staff at the stations are very helpful.
“However, it should not be necessary to have to arrange assistance before you can travel and to deal with steps and steep slopes.
“This is 2021 and entry to stations and between platforms should be accessible on an equal basis which respects the dignity of all.”
As well as Labour’s Clare O’Hagan, four other candidates are in the running for the Rock Ferry seat in Wirral Council’s elections, which take place on May 6.
The LDRS sought a response from each candidate on this issue.
Stephen Davies, who is standing as an Independent, said if the lift is needed the station has to have it.
Mr Davies added that shops and businesses are required to be accessible for disabled people and Rock Ferry station should be no different.
Liberal Democrat candidate Tom Sutton said: “As a Rock Ferry resident, it’s my regular stop on the train.
“I wholly agree that it’s of vital importance locally to install a lift for access to and from the southbound platform. My Mum is disabled and may see her mobility decline sufficiently [enough] in the next few years to depend upon a wheelchair or mobility scooter of some sort.
“The need to get off the train at either Bebington or Green Lane in relation to where we live would render the train useless for her. Generally speaking, it would be useless to have such good train links to Liverpool if everyone in Rock Ferry can’t use them fairly.
“Consequently, I will work with anybody (Labour, Independent) to get better access at Rock Ferry station because I see it as a priority.”
The Conservatives responded through Jade Marsden, the party’s candidate for Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor at elections which also take place on May 6.
Ms Marsden said: “I am pleased that money from the government is being used to enable disabled access to railway stations across Merseyside.
“Of course it is disappointing that Rock Ferry has not been allocated funding for improvements by the Labour Mayor, who is ultimately responsible.
“Maybe the local Labour MP and Labour candidate in Rock Ferry could pick up the phone to the Labour Mayor of Merseyside and ask if he could fund these much needed improvements before committing to more train stations over in Liverpool.”
The Green Party was approached, but did not respond by the time of publication.
A Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCR) spokesperson said: “The [LCR] and Merseyrail aspire to provide a rail network that is accessible for all but improvements of this nature require significant capital investment and support from the department for transport (DfT) in order to progress.
“Rock Ferry station is a key station on the network where we would like to see step-free access and was one of eleven stations put forward to the DfT for Access for All funding in this five-year tranche.
“Of those eleven stations submitted, the DfT selected Broad Green, Hillside, St Michaels, Birkenhead Park and Hunts Cross for funding.
“We remain committed to delivering step-free access at Rock Ferry station in the future and will explore possible funding opportunities as they arise.”
Candidates standing in Rock Ferry in Wirral Council’s elections:
Stephen Davies (Independent)
Craig McDonald (Green Party)
Clare O’Hagan (Labour Party)
Tom Sutton (Liberal Democrats)
Nick Hanna (Conservative Party)
Candidates standing to be Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor:
Gary Cargill (Green Party)
Jade Marsden (Conservative Party)
David Newman (Liberal Democrats)
Steve Rotheram (Labour Party)
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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