Two busy Somerset railway stations could be made more accessible for passengers

Train travellers pour onto the platform at Castle Cary train station ahead of Glastonbury Festival
-Credit: (Image: 2015 Matt Cardy)

Two busy Somerset railway stations could be made more accessible for passengers through central government funding. The access for all (AfA) programme provides targeted investment for railway stations across the UK network, paying for improvements that will make them more accessible for less mobile passengers, such as the installation of lifts.

Additional funding for the programme was recently provided as part of a range of measures brought back by the cancellation of the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link between Birmingham and Manchester. Shortly before the general election was called, the Department for Transport (DfT) published initial announcements on which stations would benefit from the funding - with both Castle Cary and Yeovil Junction benefiting this time around.

AfA bids are assessed on a range of criteria, including the annual passengers numbers (as measured by the Office of Rail and Road, or ORR), the priorities of the service operator, the availability of third party funding, geographical location and the support of the local MP. Castle Cary railway station serves as an important interchange between the Bristol to Weymouth line and the Taunton to London Paddington line, both operated by Great Western Railway (GWR).

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The station - which is the closest rail link to the Glastonbury Festival - had more than 311,000 passengers journeys between April 2022 and March 2023 (the most recent ORR figures available). The station serves a large catchment area - including large swathes of the former Mendip and South Somerset districts - and recently received a significant investment from GWR to create a new car park on its northern side, providing nearly 200 additional parking spaces.

However, the station does not currently have step-free access, with disabled passengers who are unable to use the footbridge having to rely on a barrow crossing - which is only available during the hours when the station is staffed. Similar issues exist at Yeovil Junction railway station, where passengers unable to use the footbridge have to rely on a pedestrian level crossing away from the platforms.

The station - which is operated by South Western Railway (SWR) - lies on the London Waterloo to Exeter St. David's line, and handles around 177,000 passengers a year. Both stations have been included in the most recent round of AfA funding, meaning that feasibility studies will now be carried out on a range of improvements that could be made - including possibly new lifts and bridges at each location.

Michael Adlington, SWR’s senior accessibility and inclusion manager, said: "We work incredibly hard in collaboration with local stakeholders to submit these nominations, and so we are really pleased that SWR has secured the most successful bids of any train operator, unlocking huge investments in the communities we serve. ‘We really appreciate the commitments made by partners through match funding contributions which will have been a key factor in securing this DfT investment.

"Should the feasibility studies achieve positive outcomes, customers who use these stations will benefit from transformative accessibility upgrades in the years to come."