New government figures show that the number of disabled people travelling by train has increased sharply in the last year.The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) statistics show that disabled people were assisted to use a train 1 146, 000 times in 2015-16, an increase of 7.7 per cent on the previous year and a rise of 21 per cent in just three years.The number of bookings made through the national passenger assistance booking system rose by 7.6 per cent to more than 341,000 (each booking usually involves several requests for assistance).Neither of these figures includes assistance provided by Network Rail or train companies when a disabled passenger has asked for help without making a booking.Other figures published by ORR show that the number of people with a disabled persons railcard rose by 9.6 per cent to more than 192,000 in 2015-16, an increase of more than 47,000 (nearly a third) in just three years.The railcard allows disabled passengers to receive a discount of a third off adult rail fares on the national rail network.The figures on assistance and railcards will add weight to calls by campaigners for the government to continue investing in improving the accessibility of the rail transport system.Faryal Velmi, director of the user-led charity Transport for All, said: “It is really positive that there seems to be an increasing amount of disabled people who are travelling on trains.”She said the true number of disabled people travelling on the rail network was likely to be far higher, because of the number of people who “turn up and go” without booking assistance in advance.And she said disabled people needed to push the Association of Train Operating Companies to scrap the national passenger assistance booking system and instead enforce a genuine “turn up and go” system, so that wheelchair-users and other disabled people do not have to book in advance if they need assistance to travel by rail.She said: “If we are seeing more disabled people use the railways, it makes an even stronger case that we need to treat disabled people as equal citizens with a ‘right to ride’, and get rid of this unfair policy.”Last month, seven organisations, headed by Transport for All, criticised Sir Peter Hendy, the chair of Network Rail, for recommending in a spending review that nearly £50 million allocated to Access for All – a scheme introduced by the Labour government in 2006 to fund access improvements at rail stations – should be delayed until 2019 at the earliest.Sir Peter had recommended that Access for All funding for 2014-19 should be cut from £102 million to £55 million, with the rest carried over to the next spending period, 2019-24.The Department for Transport (DfT) is due to respond to Sir Peter’s report – which contains his detailed recommendations for “replanning” Network Rail’s investment programme for 2014-19 across England and Wales – later this year.Velmi said the ORR figures added weight to their call for DfT to ignore Hendy’s recommendation to cut the Access for All funding.TfA and the other six organisations said in their letter to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin that most stations still do not have lifts, tactile paving, audio-visual information, induction loops and other equipment that enables disabled people to use them, and so “great swathes of the UK rail network are no go areas for disabled people, particularly those with mobility impairments”.They said the Access for All fund had delivered “much needed ring fenced funding” to improve this situation.A DfT spokeswoman said*: “It is great news that more passengers than ever are taking advantage of the disabled persons railcard, giving access to discounts across our railways.“It is also encouraging to see that more customers are benefiting from improved passenger assistance at stations.“We are determined to make rail journeys better for all passengers, and we’ve made significant progress since 2010 in improving accessibility across the entire transport network.“Our Access for All programme has delivered improvements such as accessible toilets, tactile paving or induction loops to more than 1,200 stations across the country.”And she said that “89 per cent of buses are now fully accessible, compared to 59 per cent in 2010, and we have committed over £500 million since 2006 for accessibility improvements at stations across the UK.”*She was not asked to respond to concerns about Hendy’s Access for All recommendation Picture: Transport for All members campaigning for better access to rail services last year
MPs have heard evidence from two leading disabled campaigners about the shortage of affordable, accessible housing across the country.Zara Todd, chair of Inclusion London, and Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK), were giving evidence to the women and equalities committee for its inquiry into disability and the built environment.Bott told the committee that DR UK had heard from one disabled man who had to crawl up the stairs of his rented property to get to his bathroom and bedroom.After years of waiting on his local housing trust’s list for an accessible property, he was told he was no longer eligible to be on that list because of a rule change.Bott said the trust was having to cope with the “squeeze” on accessible one-bedroom properties caused by disabled people having to downsize because of the government’s bedroom tax.Todd (pictured, giving evidence), who also works for the Norfolk disabled people’s organisation (DPO) Equal Lives, said she had contacted 22 letting agents in the county when looking for an accessible flat to rent, but had been shown details for just two properties that were step-free.Neither of them was completely accessible to her, so she had to settle for a property that was partly inaccessible.Because of the shortage of affordable, accessible rented properties, she and other disabled people are being told to join council housing waiting lists, even though they can afford to rent privately, she said.Todd told the committee that when she bought an accessible flat in London, she was told by the developer that she was the first disabled person to have been able to afford to buy one of the many accessible properties it had built.She said: “If it isn’t financially accessible [to disabled people] then it isn’t in reality accessible.“While there might be an increase in accessible housing [in London] in terms of it physically existing, that doesn’t mean that disabled people can afford to live there.”Even though the flat she bought is accessible – now the developers have lowered the inaccessible threshold to her new home – she is still unable to visit other floors of the affordable housing scheme because the thresholds to other flats are too high for her power-chair.She said: “Accommodation has come out as one of the biggest issues [following consultations by Equal Lives and Inclusion London] in Norfolk and London.“Disabled people are having to wait a very long time for accessible social housing.”Both Bott and Todd also told the committee of their concerns about the impact on disabled people of the fall in the number of local council access officers and local access groups.Todd said there had been a “decimation” of the number of access groups and access officers employed by local authorities in London over the last 15 years, although they still existed in Norfolk.This meant that disabled people in Norfolk were much more likely than those in London to be involved in issues around planning, adaptations and enforcing building regulations.She said: “If you involve disabled people throughout the process it means that a lot of these issues can be caught much earlier on and it means that the accessibility of the built environment reflects the needs of those who are using it.”She also highlighted the importance of those local access groups being supported by larger DPOs, as they are in Norfolk by Equal Lives, but pointed out that not all areas have strong DPOs because of the “challenging” funding environment.Bott praised a new building at Cambridge University’s Robinson College, which she said was “a superb, accessible building” which was “an absolute joy to go to”.But she said: “The difference there is Cambridge City Council is one of the few local authorities that still has an access officer and still funds a local, active access group of disabled people, so there are plenty of disabled people on hand to advise, and the result is a beautiful building.”Both Todd and Bott agreed with the committee that an “evidence base” on the state of access to the built environment across the country would be useful.Todd said the “true scale” of access problems was not being seen because disabled people need to go through the legal system to secure access improvements from service-providers, and that was “something that not all disabled people have the time or capacity to actually do”.
After a hotly contested selection contest, Labour members in Hendon chose David Pinto-Duschinsky to fight for their key marginal seat at the next election.LabourList understands that Pinto-Duschinsky – who fought off 2017 Hendon candidate, the Jewish Labour Movement’s Mike Katz, and Momentum-backed Patrick Hunter – won the race on first preference votes.There are conflicting reports of the final figures. One reliable source told LabourList Pinto-Duschinsky won 89 votes, while Katz won approximately 40 votes and Hunter took third place with 29. But another said Hunter came second with 49 and Katz received 22.Pinto-Duschinsky, an adviser to Alistair Darling under the last Labour government, had won the support of five of seven local party branches. In his pitch on Saturday, he said: “Beating the Tories here won’t be easy. We went backwards at the last local elections and need to address the causes-especially the Jewish community’s concerns-head on. But it can be done.”Mike Katz, who has been outspoken on antisemitism within the Labour Party as a JLM vice-chair, had received endorsements by high-profile figures such as Sadiq Khan, nearby north London MPs Tulip Siddiq, Catherine West and Bambos Charalambous, and the backing of Unison, TSSA and Usdaw as well as JLM.After the final result was disclosed, Katz said: “I’m proud of the campaign we fought and the platform I stood on. I’m just sorry it didn’t prove persuasive enough for Hendon members. Congratulations to David and commiserations to the other candidates.”The target seat is currently held by Tory Matthew Offord, who has a slim majority of just 1,072. In 2010, Offord won the constituency from Labour’s Andrew Dismore with a difference of only 106 votes.Tags:Matthew Offord /Hendon /
JON Wilkin is set to return for the Saints in this Friday’s engage Super League trip to Crusaders RL.The forward has recovered from a freak hand injury to be named in Royce Simmons’ squad.Scott Moore misses out with a calf injury whilst Francis Meli, Leon Pryce and Paul Clough are not ready for a return.Tommy Makinson retains his place in the squad after a good opening to the U20s campaign and two full substitute appearances so far this season.Saints’ 19-man squad is:1. Paul Wellens, 2. Ade Gardner, 3. Michael Shenton, 4. Sia Soliola, 8. Josh Perry, 9. James Roby, 10. James Graham, 11. Tony Puletua, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Chris Flannery, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 17. Gary Wheeler, 18. Matty Ashurst, 19. Andrew Dixon, 20. Jonny Lomax, 21. Shaun Magennis, 22. Jamie Foster, 25. Lee Gaskell, 28. Tommy Makinson.Crusaders’ 19-man squad:1. Clinton Schifcofske, 2. Gareth Thomas, 3.Tony Martin, 4. Vince Mellars, 5. Stuart Reardon, 6. Michael Witt, 7. Jarrod Sammut, 8. Ryan O’Hara, 10. Mark Bryant, 11. Hep Cahill, 12. Jason Chan, 13. Frank Winterstein, 16. Ben Flower, 17. Rhys Hanbury, 19. Lloyd White, 21. Paul Johnson, 22. Richard Moore, 23. Peter Lupton, 27. Jordan Tansey.The match kicks off at 8pm and the referee is R Hicks.If you can’t make the match, it will be covered extensively in the new look Match Centre as well as on Saints’ Official Twitter and Facebook sites.You can also listen by tuning in to Wish FM on 102.4 FM, DAB or by clicking here.Tickets are still on sale from the Saints Ticket Office in St Helens Town Centre with significant savings on Crusaders’ matchday prices.Statistics:Crusaders are seeking their first Super League win against St Helens.Crusaders won 0St Helens won 4St Helens highest score: 37-30 (H, 2010) (Widest margin: 30-0, H, 2009)MilestonesCHRIS FLANNERY will make his 100th appearance for the club on Friday.ADE GARDNER will make his 300th career appearance in the match.
JON Wilkin is a big fan of the Magic Weekend and says Saints’ match-up with Warrington is crucial as Super League enters a vital phase.The skipper is set to return to the line-up after suspension in the two-day extravaganza.“It is going to be a huge event,” he said. “The stadium and the city of Newcastle are ready for it and certainly all the teams are very focused on producing some good rugby at the weekend.“The weekend is always good fun; last year I looked into the crowd and was a little envious of the fun some of the fans were having… it wasn’t so much fun on the field though as we got well and truly thumped by Warrington.“I’ve always been a fan of Magic, it has really grown over the years and as well as the rugby it is a fun event to be at.“Even if rugby league isn’t your thing then the atmosphere, music and colour make it good to be part of. Rugby is a friendly sport too and you can enjoy the games in a great atmosphere.”He continued: “There are good reasons why Magic Weekend is in Newcastle. The Etihad is great in Manchester but is in quite an isolated location. This is a city centre stadium; it’s five minutes to the train station, the hotels are close by as well and that is a real bonus for the fans who want to come up for the weekend.“The stadium is beautiful too and it will be an honour to walk out and play here.”Saints’ record in recent Magic Weekends isn’t the greatest and with the First Utility Super League competition set to split after July 24, Sunday’s match with Warrington takes on greater significance.“It’s a big game,” he continued. “You play Challenge Cup Finals and Grand Finals in front of 80,000 people and a big stadium like this creates that intensity of performance.“For a lot of guys in the comp who don’t get to experience what it is like to play at Old Trafford or Wembley then for them Magic is huge.“The game is really important for us in the context of our season. We are close to the split and we need to get ourselves into a solid position in the top four and as close to the top as possible.“This fixture is a chance to put daylight between us and Warrington which they can’t get back.”Tickets for the Magic Weekend – which sees Saints face Warrington in Sunday May 31 (3.15pm) are onsale from the RFL only. Click here for more information.