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New station’s disability access plans are woeful

Brian Dalton Purley Surrey CR8
21 August 2020

I am appalled that the new Thanet Parkway rail station plan is still going ahead, with the Government awarding £12m to assist with its delivery (‘Transport shares in Getting Building cash’ LTT 07 Aug).

There have been some changes to the plans, primarily the use of the existing underpass, which has removed the need for the intrusive station footbridge that stuck out like a sore thumb on the horizon. However, access for those with disabilities is still defective. The Equality Act requirements are for a ramp to both platforms, with access enhanced by the provision of a lift. Yet, in the report to the Kent County Council’s planning committee the agent designer claims that the lifts remove the need for ramps and that this is within building regulations. I would want to see compliance with the Equality Act and not just building regulations, which have a different focus. 

The station will be unmanned, so there are two risks with the access proposal as it stands. Firstly, should the lifts break down, disabled passengers would be trapped on the exposed platforms, or, more dangerously, within the lift itself. The estimated breakdown response time is 20-30 minutes, during which time the passenger would be left with no facilities at all. This will not do.

I have previously remarked that, without removal of local level crossings, the new station will not deliver the political aspiration for a one-hour journey time to London. Yet, with the work done to these crossings, the aspiration would be achieved from the existing Ramsgate station. Moreover, the parkway station concept is out of date and flies in the face of efforts to reduce car use and improve air quality. Local demand for the new station would be low and rely almost entirely on car-borne access. Little provision appears to have been made for cycle parking.

The proposal gives a very marginal cost:benefit ratio and the benefits could be obtained by upgrading the existing Ramsgate station. The new station is likely to be a ‘white elephant’, which wastes funding that could be better used elsewhere. I suspect the estimated costs are out of date and the proposal is likely to cost, possibly, 50 per cent more by the time the bills are paid. I am sure that cancellation would bring a corporate sigh of relief at Network Rail. I imagine the South East Local Enterprise Partnership could also find a better use for its funds.

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