Why Stroud station must be a priority for accessibility improvements - Read David's full submission to GWR and Network Rail
This week I made my submission to GWR and Network Rail which is currently deciding which station in the southwest should be a priority for investment from the £300 million Access for All government funding.
Everyone deserves to be able to access our trains and to travel into Stroud. Read my full submission below.
Which Station do you wish to nominate?
Are there any local circumstances that mean making accessibility improvements here would benefit more disabled customers?
Stroud is a well-used station with a high number of passengers and serves as the main access to the rail network for Stroud district with a population of around 80,000.
Links to Cheltenham, Gloucester and London are vital to the economic prosperity and work opportunities of people living in and around Stroud. It is also vital that everyone, regardless of disability or circumstances, should have access to the facilities of the town centre.
Extensive research carried out by Stroud Town Council has clearly demonstrated the inadequate access throughout Stroud railway station and onward to the town centre, its shops and facilities.
Poor accessibility for people with limited mobility, traveling with children or heavy luggage denies them the opportunity to visit the town centre and use its facilities.
Stroud Town Council’s research has shown that the station’s provision for disabled people is inadequate, detailed here http://www.accessglos.co.uk/stroud-train-station/.
Information from the Department for Work and Pensions shows that 500 people claim disability benefit in Stroud, higher than comparable data for Cheltenham Borough, Tewkesbury Borough, Cotswold District or the Forest of Dean.
Stroud District Council’s data also shows an older population than the rest of Gloucestershire, some of whom are reliant on public transport or find steps a barrier to access. The Office for National Statistics also suggest that the Stroud population is ageing and that by 2037 there is likely to be a 63% increase in people aged over 65 years across the county.
It is estimated that there are 9,000 people in the county with a serious disability and an estimated 30,000 with a moderate disability. The station also poses challenges to those with sensory impairments, as well as physical disabilities. Poor signage and the lack of clear routes across the car parks and forecourt are also barriers.
The alternative route around Cheapside and Rowcroft to avoid stepped access is not an easy route for those with a range of disabilities. The route involves steep hills and crossing busy roads, with inadequate signage and crossings.
Stroud station has more than half a million visitors a year and the numbers are growing. The town is the primary market town in Stroud district and is the main station in the district for visitors to and from London.
The nearest neighbouring station at Stonehouse does not have staff support or ramp access and also does not provide adequate disabled access.
Stroud District Council has a target to build 12,800 properties in the next 20 years, and the number of rail users is expected to increase.
The neighbouring canal has received millions of pounds of investment and the towpaths adjacent to the railway line have been developed with disability access. In order to make the most of that access, it makes sense for the station to also be improved.
Good access to the town, the canal, and other transport connections are vital to Stroud’s development as a hub for visitors and residents, and to bring tourism and investment to the area.
Are you aware of any other potential sources of funding?
Stroud Town Council has worked hard to pursue additional sources of funding and has invested £25k in research and consultation to develop a plan for improvements to Stroud Station. The Town Council has secured £13k of funding from GWR CCIF to develop this Masterplan to the next stage.
The council is also committed to investing £20k in station improvements and this has enabled it to secure match funding from Stroud District Council.
STC has committed £20k which has enabled it to secure a further £20k of additional match funding for the station from Stroud District Council. and is prepared to work with local, and national partners to improve accessibility for all station users. The will to invest is evident, and Stroud Town Council is bidding for further funds.
How would improvements at this station help to fill gaps in accessibility on the railway or other public transport?
Like many town centres, Stroud High Street traders face stiff competition from elsewhere and online shopping, and we should be working to reduce barriers to access to our excellent town centre shops and restaurants, cafes and arts facilities.
Stroud is a hilly town which already has accessibility problems. Improvements to the railway station could provide more level access to the town centre, including its shops, restaurants and arts venue the Subscription Rooms.
Access from our bus station, which is at the foot of the hill, to shops and facilities at the top of town is already difficult for some elderly people and those with young children or disabilities.
Improved access from the railway station would provide an alternative and a more level route to the town centre.
Lift access across the railway line is vitally needed but there are also other access issues, including unclear car park markings, poor visibility particularly for wheelchair users, inadequate lighting and poor forecourt design which lacks good pedestrian access through the car parks and roads.
Please use this space to provide us with any other information that supports your nomination that isn’t covered by the questions above
One of the priorities detailed in Stroud’s Neighbourhood Development Plan is to improve the access to the station and over the railway. The Neighbourhood Development Plan was drawn up following extensive community consultation, with 2,500 people responding to the consultation, and demonstrates that this is one of the priorities widely recognised by residents and businesses.
The Neighbourhood Development Plan also emphasised the importance of the station as a gateway to the town centre for more than half a million people per year. The difficulty of access is a daily struggle for many regular travellers and is an unwelcoming experience for visitors. Stroud Town Council has worked hard to liaise with the community and draw up proposals with financial support and backing from other groups and is to be congratulated.
Stroud’s roads experience congestion, partly due to the nature of ‘bottleneck’ routes through our valleys. Any measures which reduce the reliance of travellers on cars are welcome, as part of efforts to improve air quality and ease congestion.
Improvements of access to the station are supported by a range of policies and legislation, including the Equality Act 2010, Department for Work and Pensions, Office for Disability Issues. Vision statement, Gloucestershire County Council ‘s Equality and Diversity Policy; Gloucestershire Local Transport Plan, Stroud District Council’s Corporate Equality and Diversity policy.
I hope that GWR looks favourably on this proposal and I look forward to a Stroud railway station that is welcoming to all travellers.