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We oppose the Hendy review proposals to defer 50% of vital Access for All rail projects

Following the proposals on Access for All detailed in the Hendy Review, Transport for All, together with Inclusion London, Disabled People against Cuts, Disability Rights UK, RNIB, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign UK and Campaign for Better Transport wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport. The "Replanning Network Rail's investment programme" report from Sir Peter Hendy to the Transport Secretary recommends to defer 50% of vital Access for All projects to 2019-24. [Source: Transport for All website] Dear Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport, R.E: Proposals by the Hendy Review to defer 50% of Access for All projects until the next rail Control Period (2019-24) Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the accessibility of the UK's Rail network still has a long way to go. We are therefore writing to express our dismay at the proposed recommendations by the Hendy review into Network Rail to defer 50% of vital Access for All projects to 2019-24. Over twenty years have passed since the rights of disabled people to access goods and services were passed into law - yet still many of us cannot use our local train station. A large majority of stations do not have lifts, tactile paving, audio visual information, induction loops and other fixtures that enable disabled people to use them. It follows that great swathes of the UK rail network are no go areas for disabled people, particularly those with mobility impairments. The Access for All fund has delivered much needed ring fenced funding to ameliorate this situation and over the years has unlocked parts of our rail network for disabled and older citizens to use, in many cases for the first time. Stations up and down the UK from Cheadle Hulme to Canterbury and from Balham to Blackburn have benefited from Access for All funding. Therefore the proposed deferment of around 50% of proposed projects and approx. £50 million worth of access funding represents a real backward step in terms of rail accessibility. We need access improvements to happen by 2019 as they were originally planned and expected. It is grossly unfair that disabled and older people are being asked to defer our lives for another five years in order to 'iron out' previous Network Rail inefficiencies. Furthermore we are very concerned that if part of the Access for All budget is indeed deferred for five years, it will mean a reduction in access spending in real terms as costs go up. Additionally, deferred funding often displaces any future additional investment, which is a further reduction. We are also facing a double blow in the loss of the 'small scheme fund' which was used to finance additional access features such as accessible toilets and ticket windows. This fund was crucial for smaller stations that would have never qualified for Access for All funding. Austerity has already had a disproportionately negative impact on disabled people in UK. Changes and deferments to schemes such as Access for All, that directly benefit us, constitute a direct attack on our rights to participate fully in society. We therefore kindly request that you: Reject the deferment of the Access for All projects that have been proposed by Sir Peter Hendy. Guarantee that the Access for All fund will be able to retain and spend its full allocated budget so to improve the accessibility of our rail network. Consult over any future changes to the Access for All funds. We look forward to hearing from you on this important matter. Yours sincerely, Faryal Velmi, Director Transport for All Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive, Inclusion London Linda Burnip, Disabled People against Cuts Liz Sayce, Chief Executive, Disability Rights UK Richard Holmes, Regional Campaigns Officer, RNIB Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign UK James MacColl, Head of Campaigns, Campaign for Better Transport - See more at: http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2016/april/we-oppose-hendy-review-proposals-defer-50-vital-access-all-rail-projects#sthash.k3h8hr0p.dpuf