A transport minister has announced £600,000 funding for seven digital projects to help disabled passengers access rail travel, days after her department confirmed another minister had rubber-stamped tens of millions of pounds in cuts to a separate rail access scheme.Nusrat Ghani, the transport accessibility minister, said this week that the seven “innovative, high-tech schemes” to improve access to rail travel for disabled passengers would share the £600,000 funding.The successful schemes include a mobile phone app to help station staff prioritise requests for support from disabled passengers; a website to help disabled passengers navigate transport interchanges; a study of how well frontline rail staff understand invisible impairments; and an app that aims to make rail travel easier for users of British Sign Language.The seven schemes succeeded in a competition run by the Rail Safety and Standards Board.Ghani said: “I am determined to make sure that our railways are accessible to everyone, and that we remove any barriers faced by people with a disability.”But her announcement came only days after her own department finally confirmed to Disability News Service that it had rubber-stamped cuts of tens of millions of pounds to its Access for All rail station access improvement programme.Two years ago, the chair of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, published a report on “replanning” his organisation’s investment programme for 2014-19 across England and Wales.He recommended that funding for the Access for All station improvement programme should be cut by nearly £50 million, from £102 million to £55 million (in addition to another £32 million carried over from uncompleted work in 2009-14).The rest of the funding was to be carried over to 2019-24, but with no guarantee that it would not be used to disguise lower spending on access improvements in future years.The government had been due to respond to a consultation on Hendy’s report, and last week the Department for Transport (DfT) finally confirmed that it had accepted his recommendations, including the huge cuts to the Access for All programme.A DfT spokeswoman said: “On the consultation response, it looks like there wasn’t a response published.”But she pointed to a brief note that has been added to the DfT web page, which says only that “responses to this consultation were considered in the decision to accept Sir Peter Hendy’s plans for re-profiling the rail enhancements portfolio”.An internet archive website appears to show that this note was only added after 26 May 2018, two years after Hendy’s report was published.A Network Rail spokesman said that not all its spending on accessibility comes from the Access for All fund.He said the recent refurbishment of London Bridge station, which included significant access improvements, was funded from the Thameslink programme and not Access for All.And he said that Network Rail had bid for its Access for All allocation to be higher than £102 million for the next five years. The settlement is due to be announced by DfT later this year.He said: “Network Rail is committed to working with the Department for Transport and other key stakeholders to create a transport system that works for everyone.“Improving accessibility in stations – many of which were built in the Victorian era – has been a key objective over recent years.“But we know more can be done.”A DfT spokeswoman refused to say how the £600,000 funding would replace the tens of millions of pounds cut from Access for All spending between 2014 and 2019, and how the minister reconciled her determination to “make sure that our railways are accessible to everyone” with those cuts.But she said in a statement: “These innovative new projects will make a real difference to passengers with disabilities, and help more people travel independently and with confidence.”She added: “Our Accessibility Action Plan consultation, which sought views on ways to improve travel for disabled people, received over 1,000 responses which we are carefully considering.“We expect to publish our response – as well as our Inclusive Transport Strategy – later this year.”Picture: Activists from the Transport for All campaign group with Labour MP Heidi Alexander at Hither Green station in London in 2017 to protest at the Access for All cuts
SAINTS Academy returned from their 2015 Tour unbeaten with four wins from four games.The players are enjoying a well-earned break – until later week anyway! – whilst the staff are dissecting what happened in Australia and planning for the season ahead.We caught up with head coach Derek Traynor to gain his thoughts from the successful trip.You planned the tour in meticulous detail – could you have expected it to have gone as well as it did?The big thing about the tour is we are trying to mould players. We are looking to produce well mannered, respectable and polite lads off the field – and competitive players on it. I felt we achieved that. Walking to the gate at the airport you could see passengers hoping they weren’t sat with us. At the end those same people were saying how well behaved the lads had been. That is great for the club and shows what we are doing is working.We set the standards and the culture we want and the players follow. Obviously, when they go out on the field we want them to be competitive. In the end it was a well-disciplined tour.Looking at the four games, each win was gained in a different way and it showed the character of the youngsters we have at the club…In the touring party we had players who’d played Academy and those who hadn’t. The first game (against Wests Tigers) was a big shock for the latter part of this group and some didn’t last as many minutes as they would normally.It was a tough match for us. Wests Tigers and Balmain brought their best players together to form their cubs and we had to dig in. We were losing by the end of the second 20 minute period but scored two tries in the last 20 to win the match.Sadly, we lost Josh Eaves to a broken jaw early in the game. Thankfully, it didn’t need surgery and full credit to him, he just got on with the tour and supported the lads. In turn, they treated him as part of the squad. It was great the way everyone rallied around.Against Central Coast we always knew what we would be facing. They are well organised and physical. Central Coast are trying to get an NRL team in the area and a lot of those lads will play for Newcastle and other clubs.We took charge early, scored some good tries and improved from the experience of the first game. The younger players certainly stood up and were counted.The third game against Parramatta Eels was the highlight of the tour for me. They are as big as Super League teams over here and we had to try and match that, dig in and hang on. We pinched a couple of tries and held them to a drop goal in the second half. Then in the last minute, with the last play of the game, we scored and won the match.For the lads to perform that skill under pressure and not panic is just superb. As soon as the lad passed the ball to put us in we were jumping up and down.The game with Penrith is historically the toughest and the one we want to win. We are based there over the course of the tour and have always faced them. To be honest we didn’t play well and didn’t control the ball as well as we would have liked and that put us under pressure. The Panthers were well organised and defended well – and we had to match that. We ended up grinding out a win to go four on four – a big achievement.The last time we did that Andre Savelio, Greg Richards, Luke Thompson, Mark Percival and Adam Swift came through so we are obviously looking for more of the same.You actually sound a little disappointed with the Penrith performance – does that show how much the side grew during the course of the three weeks?Yes. You are always looking to kick on and improve and it was the flattest performance on the tour. It was nice to finish on a high but were a little disappointed. However, winning when you’re not playing well is the sign of a decent side.Social media meant it was a lot easier for fans to keep in touch with the tour this time around. Did the players know the about the interest in them?The interest was higher than before but we tend to ban Facebook and Twitter when they are over there. It can be a distraction for the players. They would spend three weeks on their phones otherwise! We want them to socialise with each other and the staff. They will have an idea about the interest but they probably didn’t realise how much coverage they were getting until they came back to the UK.What happens now?The lads who have signed for us will be back in on Tuesday and a couple who went on the tour who aren’t signed will go back to their amateur clubs to gain game time. Of course we will keep a close eye on them – it is an ongoing process.I’d like to say a massive thank you to Dave Woods whose role is really important. Alongside Mike Rush and Neil Kilshaw he helps with the organisation of the tour and driving us around over there. Geoff Cropper’s fundraising is also invaluable.
ENGLAND’S will host the Rugby League World Cup in 2021.The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) announced earlier today that England had beaten off competition from the USA/Canada to host the 31 game Men’s tournament alongside the Women’s and Wheelchair tournament in five years’ time.Speaking following the announcement, Chairman of the RFL, Brian Barwick, said: “The news today that England has won the right to host the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 is transformative for our sport.“Our commitment to grow the game internationally, attract more spectators than ever before and put on the biggest and best event in the sports history has clearly been recognised by the RLIF.“With a sold out game between England and New Zealand this weekend in the Ladbrokes Four Nations it is clear that there is a real passion for international Rugby League in this country. The UK has a proud reputation for delivering world class sporting events and the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 will round off an incredible decade of major events in our country that began with the London Olympics in 2012. The hard work starts now, but we are confident that we can deliver.“Finally, we would like to thank the government for their steadfast support for the bid. Their pledge to help financially support the staging of this event and their commitment to provide up to an additional £10m investment in infrastructure for the sport of Rugby League, has undoubtedly helped to bring yet another iconic world class sporting event to this country.”The tournament will benefit from central government backing with up to £15m pledged to help support the hosting of the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 and a further £10m to support infrastructure for the sport and grow the game across the country.Speaking following the announcement, Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, said: “I am delighted that England has been chosen to stage the Rugby League World Cup in 2021. The government is investing up to £15 million to put on a world class show and up to a further £10 million into the game’s infrastructure as part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda – and to help Rugby League grow outside its traditional home.“The tournament will be a fantastic festival of rugby, enjoyed by a million spectators, and bringing economic benefits to host towns and cities. I look forward to working alongside the RLIF, RFL and UK Sport on an outstanding event.”England Head Coach, Wayne Bennett, added: “The Rugby League World Cup feels like it is on the verge of transforming itself from a major to a mega event. It has the potential to sit alongside some of the world’s biggest events and it’s clear from England’s bid that they have the capability, backing, funding and expertise to do just that. Hosting the World Cup in England in 2021 is exactly what the sport needs to be doing and I’m glad to see that this country now has the opportunity to deliver on its ambitious plans.”