Disabled boy takes train firm to court over wheelchair access at station
An 11-year-old wheelchair user is taking train operator Network Rail to court because he cannot use his nearest station.
Owen Porter - who has cerebral palsy - is unable to get trains from Alfreton station because it does not have wheelchair access.
His legal team has now been awarded funding from the Equality and Human Rights Commission to demand Network Rail changes the station.
His solicitor, Lisa Haythorne, from the Derbyshire Law Centre, said: “Owen is 11 years of age and has had many health issues since birth.
“His parents have been told on more than one occasion to expect the worst and he is not expected to live into adulthood.”
As a result of his condition, Owen is under the constant care of the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.
His mum Tara does not drive which means Owen has to use public transport to get from the family’s South Normanton home to his doctors in Nottingham every six weeks.
“The family would like to go to these appointments by train,” explained Lisa.
“There is no disabled access for anyone travelling south at Alfreton - only a two-hour bus journey.”
However, as well as appointments at the hospital, Owen has found taking part in social activities difficult.
Last summer he wanted to go to the Nottingham city centre ‘beach’ but because of the situation with the train station he was left in tears waving his brother off.
“Owen has limited time left to enjoy family trips and the family are very aware of this,” says his solicitor, Lisa.
“Due to his long term prognosis, the family are keen that he gets to enjoy everything possible
“And having no disabled access at their local train station causes the family a lot of upset.”
The Derbyshire Law Centre say the funding it has received is ‘limited’ but that it hopes to start the court case within a month.
Works to provide step-free access to both platforms had been due to start at Alfreton Station earlier this year, but the improvements were postponed whilst all the schemes under the Access for All programme were reviewed.
Following this review by Network Rail and the Department for Transport, the Minister has confirmed that the funding and the project have been deferred until after 2019.
As a result of the current impasse, the family now see legal action as their last resort.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “There are a number of stations across the country, such as Alfreton, which were built many years ago with little consideration of accessibility.
“We are committed to improving access at stations and work closely with our funders, including the Department for Transport (DfT) to deliver improvements.
“DfT has a dedicated fund, known as ‘Access for All’ which is used to make improvements at stations. The decision about which schemes receive funding is made by the DfT with the support of Network Rail and train operation companies.
“This process considers a number of factors including current access arrangements, passenger numbers and feedback from local stakeholders. Unfortunately, due to funding pressures, some stations, including Alfreton, which were allocated funds for the 2014 – 2019 have been deferred to a future funding period.
“However, should additional funds become available through third party investment before then, we would be happy to work on improved access solutions with all interested parties.”