Students focus on travel problems

PUBLISHED: 11:44 01 February 2008 | UPDATED: 15:39 11 May 2010

ON THE SET: Meldreth Manor School made a documentary to focus on problems using public transport. Picture: DICK HARDING

ON THE SET: Meldreth Manor School made a documentary to focus on problems using public transport. Picture: DICK HARDING

Disabled students have made a documentary film to highlight the challenges they face when using public transport. The production was made by six Meldreth Manor School residents as part of the 11 Million Takeover Day campaign, involving companies throughou

Disabled students have made a documentary film to highlight the challenges they face when using public transport.

The production was made by six Meldreth Manor School residents as part of the 11 Million Takeover Day campaign, involving companies throughout the UK consulting young people.

A special showing of the film was given at the school, attended by councillors and a representative of the First Capital Connect train company.

Meldreth Manor's advisory board chairman Mike Craig said: "I'd love to see more films like this, raising vital issues and bringing them to the fore."

"The idea of this school is to equip ­students with the skills needed to move out to independent living and as the group love travelling, transportation is a key issue."

Meldreth Manor, run by the SCOPE charity, helps disabled students with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Two student residents made a trip to London to talk directly to SCOPE management, becoming honorary chief executives for the day, to identify problems they encounter when travelling.

Jenny Clemmence, who made the trip to London, said "The paths at Meldreth station are bad, which makes it uncomfortable to move in wheelchairs, and crossing the road is dangerous."

Fellow resident Russell Henkes said the pavements in the area were ­dangerous and bumpy, sloping towards the road, and making wheelchairs roll off course.

He said: "There are no ramps or lifts at the station, which makes getting on and off trains difficult, and switching ­platforms by the bridge basically impossible.

"People have to lift you, which isn't nice, and risks them hurting their backs."

Jenny said: "There is also only one rain shelter, so it is hard to keep warm and dry in bad weather because it means crossing the bridge."

If the students want to visit Cambridge, they say lack of an easy way to switch platforms means they have to make a detour on the way back, overshooting Meldreth and switching platforms at Royston to head home.

Student James Nesbitt said: "I love going on trains and would choose them to travel on as they're fun, if there was a better train service."

However, the problems the students face are not localised, extending across much of the rail network.

Resident Lewis Brooks, who also made the trip to London, said "There was no real space for wheelchairs on the train, and I had to sit with my back to everyone next to the smelly toilets."

Russell said "You can easily get stuck in the carriages, or caught in the doors when they close."

First Capital Connect head of communications Sarah Pinch said: "We were delighted to attend the film showing at Meldreth Manor School.

"Many issues were raised and we are keen to exhaust all possibilities to achieve improvements in accessibility at our stations.

"We have a dedicated accessibility and inclusion manager, and this last year we secured more than £600,000 funding from the Government's Access for All scheme, which has been matched by First Capital Connect.

"We would be pleased to explore, with the young people, how we can secure additional funding for more ­improvements at our stations."

School staff member Jody-Alissa Bickerton said: "There has been a SCOPE presence and a wheelchair community in Meldreth for 30 years.

"People with buggies and trolleys face the same problems with the paths, so it's also a wider community issue."

"We need more community support and to get petitions going to approach the parish council"

For more information contact Jody on 01763 268030, or by email: jody.bickerton@scope.org.uk.

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