Watch: Video ‘shows that new York rail bridge will exclude many people from countryside’
Campaigners fighting a plan to replace a rail crossing with a stepped road bridge have created a video which they say disproves one of Network Rail’s key arguments.
The transport body is pressing ahead with a plan to close the crossing at Copmanthorpe as part of the transpennine route upgrade.
It wants to replace it with a bridge with 88 steps at Beckett’s Crossing.
Opponents, including City of York Council, say that this bridge excludes people from the countryside and could lead to “unlawful discrimination”.
Copmanthorpe Parish Council has asked for an alternative footbridge, such as a ramped design, which provides disabled access.
But Network Rail argues the crossing, which is part of the Ebor Way, is not currently used by anybody with reduced mobility who would require a fully accessible bridge – due to rough terrain on either side.
Campaigners say there is no comprehensive data available about people with different levels of mobility or mobility aids using the footpath.
So York resident Jamie Wood and Copmanthorpe parish councillor Lars Kramm put the accessibility of the path to the test.
Dr Wood has multiple sclerosis and a walking range of a couple of metres. He used an eTrike, which is an electric assist all-terrain wheelchair. It is aimed at people who would like some assistance to travel off-road or those who want to tackle more challenging terrain.
In the video, Dr Wood goes over the crossing and successfully navigates a steep slope, bumpy paths across fields and wooden bridge in his all-terrain wheelchair.
He said: “There is a range of mobility devices available to meet people’s needs – from canes and crutches to different kinds of wheelchairs and mobility aids that support different desires of adventure and budgets.
“Modern technology can cope with many natural obstacles and high-gradient slopes.
“The technology for mobility assistance is improving all the time permitting more and more people to take advantage of active travel routes.
“The route has the potential to be a critical active travel connection but is sorely neglected, and if the footbridge goes ahead will exclude vulnerable people in the future.“
Also excludes prams and buggies
Parish councillor Lars Kramm says: “Today’s countryside walk clearly shows that in principle this is an accessible path, which is suitable for people with supported mobility needs.
“The most telling learning was clear that the biggest challenge of access is not caused by geography or the rural character of the path, but by the poor maintenance of the built infrastructure.
“If the decaying concrete platform right behind the crossing would either be repaired or the obstructing concrete blocks be removed, the path would instantaneously be open to a wider group of users with mobility aids.
“The proposed stepped bridge is not just putting an obstacle in the way of users like Jamie, which cannot be mitigated.
“It is also increasing the mobility threshold for users significantly, excluding wheelchairs, prams, pushchairs, buggies and people who just cannot climb 88 steps in a go.”
Network Rail says it will apply for a Transport & Works Act Order seeking powers to divert the footpath and close the crossing to the Secretary of State for Transport in March.