Footbridge without a ramp dismays human right group

BATTLE: Residents who have been campaigning for the bridge to have ramps

BATTLE: Residents who have been campaigning for the bridge to have ramps Buy this photo

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

A HUMAN rights body has criticised a decision to rebuild a footbridge in Oxford without ramps.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said Network Rail should put ramps on Hinksey Bridge, despite the company’s insistence that it doesn’t need to.

Rail bosses want to build a new taller bridge because they are electrifying the line through Oxford, meaning that cables need to be run over the track.

However, they say they only have funding for a like-for-like replacement, which would not include a ramp.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith contacted the commission to offer his support.

In reply, a senior lawyer at the commission, Joanna Owen, said that when exercising public functions, all organisations – including Network Rail and the Planning Inspectorate – have a legal duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, and to advance equality.

She added that the approach taken by Network Rail and the Planning Inspectorate risks “demoting” this duty.

Mr Smith said: “I hope common sense, and common humanity, can prevail so we get the ramps, which are vital for people with disabilities or limited mobility and a real help to those needing to cross with small children in buggies.

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“I took the issue up with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), on the principle that both Network Rail and the Planning Inspectorate should have full and proper regard to equality of access issues in the need to provide ramps for the replacement bridge.

“The encouraging thing about this reply is that the commission recognises that the approach Network Rail and the Planning Inspectorate have taken risks demoting the public equality duty and need to eliminate discrimination.”

Network Rail was refused planning permission for the new bridge by Oxford City Council, but this was overturned by a Government inspector in February. But the city council is still trying to get the ramps installed, claiming Network Rail has a legal obligation to include them.

An EHRC spokesman, Valentine Murombe-Chivero, said it was too early to say whether the body would be able to take any action in this case.

The city council has also refused prior approval for a similar bridge off Whitehouse Road because Network Rail’s proposed replacement also doesn’t have ramps.

Network Rail has also appealed this decision but a ruling has not yet been made.

Network Rail spokesman Anne Marie Batson said: “We note the comments in the Equalities and Human Rights Commission letter to Andrew Smith MP regarding calls to add ramps to Hinksey Bridge.

“As a taxpayer funded organisation, we have to strike a balance between building a replacement bridge that meets the needs both of the railway and the community with the limited funds available.

“We fully appreciate the concerns regarding accessibility at Hinksey Bridge and we will continue looking at opportunities to develop an improved design should additional funds become available.”

A Planning Inspectorate spokesman said: “We have not yet received any correspondence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission regarding this case.

“The Planning Inspectorate is aware of the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, and of the public sector equality duty, which the Inspector would have considered when determining the appeal. It was not, however, within the Inspector’s power to dismiss the appeal for lack of access.”

Repair follows flooding

A RAILWAY embankment nearing collapse after flooding will have “urgent” repair works carried out.

The two-kilometre stretch of line, at Piddington near Bicester, will be rebuilt after councillors approved the plans.

thisisoxfordshire:

Trains travelling at up to 100mph use the route, which forms part of the Chiltern line between Birmingham and London Marylebone.

At this stage Network Rail was unable to say when work would start, how long the project would take and whether there would be any travel disruption.

A spokesman said: “Parts of the Piddington embankment near Bicester North station on the Chiltern line has subsided owing to longstanding heavy flooding.

“Safety is our number one priority and, following detailed ground investigation and monitoring of the site, we will need to carry out repairs to restore the embankment.’’ During the construction phase there will be up to 40 lorries a day travelling to the site.

The embankment has been monitored by Network Rail since 2003, and monitoring devices have showed there have been movements of up to 150mm in a down-slope direction in places, the council said.

Comments (4)

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8:23am Mon 5 May 14

GaryOxford says...

I'm not entirely sure whether current legislation would mean that if that bridge was being built now it would have to include ramps.
But Network Rail renewals policy means that any renewal project has to comply with current legislation. i.e. if Network Rail were replacing some electrical cables from the 1970s, the new cables would have to comply with the current (excuse the pun) wiring regulations not the wiring regulations from the 1970s. So even though it would be a 'like for like' replacement i.e. provide the same function the new cables could be completely different to the ones they were replacing.
With that in mind I think it would depend on the current legislation for the bridge. Is the need for ramps guidance or mandatory?
I'm not entirely sure whether current legislation would mean that if that bridge was being built now it would have to include ramps. But Network Rail renewals policy means that any renewal project has to comply with current legislation. i.e. if Network Rail were replacing some electrical cables from the 1970s, the new cables would have to comply with the current (excuse the pun) wiring regulations not the wiring regulations from the 1970s. So even though it would be a 'like for like' replacement i.e. provide the same function the new cables could be completely different to the ones they were replacing. With that in mind I think it would depend on the current legislation for the bridge. Is the need for ramps guidance or mandatory? GaryOxford
  • Score: 3

8:57am Mon 5 May 14

gel says...

Human Rights Commission obviously struggling to justify its existence; has their spokesman ever been to Oxon?
Human Rights Commission obviously struggling to justify its existence; has their spokesman ever been to Oxon? gel
  • Score: -2

1:53pm Mon 5 May 14

Cityview says...

At the risk of appearing non PC I just wonder about the need for the ramps. Whilst agreeing wholeheartedly that everyone should be able to access all areas you have to be pragmatic. I cycle and run this route regularly and see both cyclists and pram users negotiating the steps with just a bit of effort so these users can be discounted, the extra cost of ramps is not justified.

Whilst well used its not a very busy route, I only ever see one or two people a trip.

In terms of wheelchair access I question from to? I could understand the benefit of South Hinksey residents accessing to Hinksey Pools and hence Abingdon Road / public transport, shopping etc but beyond that who would want to or be likely to travel that route needing wheelchair accessible ramps? The unfortunate reality for most wheelchair users is that outside urban areas vehicle transport is almost a neccessity so if you need to access S Hinksey from town you are unlikely to break your motor vehicle trip the other side of the railway line.. In terms of a circular route there are no wheelchair accessible options outside of S Hinksey Village.

Presumably not too difficult to establish the predicted need i.e. the number of wheel chair users in South Hinksey who would want to access the Hinksey lakes area in their chair and vice versa. If we are predicting single figure trips per month then I think it would be a waste of money.

If funds were unlimited then yes lets get ramps but they are not. Surely any extra money would be better spent improving access at major stations or bridges in more urban areas.

It may well be I am wrong and there is a great demand and other correspondents can put me right.
At the risk of appearing non PC I just wonder about the need for the ramps. Whilst agreeing wholeheartedly that everyone should be able to access all areas you have to be pragmatic. I cycle and run this route regularly and see both cyclists and pram users negotiating the steps with just a bit of effort so these users can be discounted, the extra cost of ramps is not justified. Whilst well used its not a very busy route, I only ever see one or two people a trip. In terms of wheelchair access I question from to? I could understand the benefit of South Hinksey residents accessing to Hinksey Pools and hence Abingdon Road / public transport, shopping etc but beyond that who would want to or be likely to travel that route needing wheelchair accessible ramps? The unfortunate reality for most wheelchair users is that outside urban areas vehicle transport is almost a neccessity so if you need to access S Hinksey from town you are unlikely to break your motor vehicle trip the other side of the railway line.. In terms of a circular route there are no wheelchair accessible options outside of S Hinksey Village. Presumably not too difficult to establish the predicted need i.e. the number of wheel chair users in South Hinksey who would want to access the Hinksey lakes area in their chair and vice versa. If we are predicting single figure trips per month then I think it would be a waste of money. If funds were unlimited then yes lets get ramps but they are not. Surely any extra money would be better spent improving access at major stations or bridges in more urban areas. It may well be I am wrong and there is a great demand and other correspondents can put me right. Cityview
  • Score: 3

7:20pm Mon 5 May 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

Ideally, there would be a New Hinksey stop on a light rail network around or between the two pedestrian bridges.

This would be fully DDA compliant and could be utilised as a route across the city.

Installation of lifts, overbridge and ramp would, of course, be subject to the consent of the CPRE.
Ideally, there would be a New Hinksey stop on a light rail network around or between the two pedestrian bridges. This would be fully DDA compliant and could be utilised as a route across the city. Installation of lifts, overbridge and ramp would, of course, be subject to the consent of the CPRE. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 2

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