DISABLED travellers embarking from Abergavenny Railway Station to Newport or Cardiff are being advised to head 23.5 miles in the opposite direction to Hereford in order to cross to a southbound platform before heading south again, according to an Abergavenny-based campaigner.
‘This round trip adds fifty minutes to the journey but is the only way someone chair-bound can travel south by rail at times when the town’s ticket office is unstaffed’, states Felicity Branigan chairman of locally-based group, Promobility.
‘We are also supposed to buy a ticket before travelling but there is only one ticket machine and it is too high for the disabled; the train guard has to cross us over whenever the ticket office is closed which includes the evening after 6pm’, she adds.
Benita Kelly, also of Promobility, added, ‘We are appalled that work is to be undertaken on this bridge but will not take into account the needs of the less able.
“We are told the bridge is a listed structure. This, in our experience, is often a ready excuse to take no action’.
The lack of round-the-clock staff exacerbates the problem of access to the south bound platform which was highlighted in last week’s Chronicle.
Reader, Julia Davies states, ‘The last time I used the station to travel to Cardiff I was on crutches following an operation. I asked for assistance to cross through the barrow gates but this was not possible as there was only one member of staff in the office.
‘With great difficulty I had to negotiate the steep steps up and down to the bridge. It is disgraceful that facilities for the disabled and people with heavy luggage haven’t been incorporated into the renovation work.
‘The offer by Arriva Trains to provide a taxi to Hereford or Newport is absurd. There should be access for all at the station’.
Reader, Barbara Crow of Abergavenny added, ‘Abergavenny Station needs proper access to Platform 2 for all the people in this town. We should all, regardless of disability, age, heavy luggage or accompanying push-chairs be able to cross the line independently and freely, whenever we need to and on our own if we wish, just like everyone else. Is it really still too much to expect?
The station manager at Abergavenny has issued a statement via Network Rail in which she states, ‘Abergavenny is staffed from 0545-1845. However there is only ever one member of staff, not three, on duty at any one given time.
‘There has been some long term sickness and annual leave clashing in the last couple of months so we’ve had to do our best to cover this. Staff will prioritise the booked passenger assistance first before their ticket office duties.
“We would ask that all passengers needing assistance over the Barrow crossing allow extra time and make themselves known to staff on arrival.
“When there is a passenger assist booked in for when the station is unstaffed, we will advise the conductor who can assist the passenger over the crossing.
“We appreciate this can cause some delays but we will always do our best to ensure everyone who needs assistance can make the train.
Network rail have stated, ‘The decision about which schemes receive funding is made by the Department for Transport, with the support of Network Rail and train operation companies.
“The present fund for the period is fully allocated, but new funding for additional schemes may be made available from the government.”