I am writing in response to a quote attributed to Sir Alastair Morton, Strategic Rail Authority chairman (NCE last week). In it he stated that 'some of the investment to ensure that all rail stations are accessible to the disabled by 2004 would be better used for other things. . . It might be better used more for overall safety'.
There are several points to address. First, there are approximately 6M people in this country with a disability.
This significant number of people, restricted or even prevented from using the transport infrastructure, provides sound economic reasons for improving access.
As bus operators are finding, when low floor easy access buses are introduced, along with associated improvements, bus use increases, but not just because of disabled people. In research, the reason given for increased use is that the buses are so easy to use.
Secondly, safety. When facilities have been designed appropriately, the principal result is space. As was demonstrated during the Kings Cross fire, where there was insufficient space at the exits or transition areas, carnage can be the result. If you design inclusively and allow appropriate space, you enhance the safety of your facility.
If the chairman of the SRA suggests transferring funds from one statutory duty to another, it suggests that both issues, access and safety, have been given a lower than appropriate priority by the principal funders.
This should prompt a much wider debate and hopefully encourage us, as engineers, to think of the whole of society, and our duty to it.
Mark Broadhurst, design engineer, Cornwall email@example.com