Wheelchair user seeks help reaching beach with closure of Brighton seafront lift

Lack of access to the beach for people with disabilities and those who can’t use steps has prompted a woman to ask councillors for help.

Lina Talbot, who uses a wheelchair, struggles to reach Madeira Drive because the Madeira lift is out of action.

She wants Brighton and Hove City Council to support or fund a bus service to and from the seafront.

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Currently, the only way to reach the beach from Kemp Town and east Brighton is by a limited number of staircases or heading to Duke’s Mound or the Palace Pier for step-free access.

The Madeira Lift is expected to be out of action for the rest of the year – and while the Madeira Terraces are restored when additional lifts are due to be added.

Ms Talbot spoke to people in St George’s Road and collected 84 signatures in a couple of hours. She also applied to set up a petition on the council website but it did not appear online.

She said: “I was surprised at the enthusiasm with which everyone I bumped into in St George’s Road supported it and wanted to sign my petition. They were really keen and think it is a worthwhile thing.”

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Labour councillor Nancy Platts, who represents East Brighton ward, presented the petition to the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on Tuesday (20 September).

She proposed that every fifth 48 or 52 bus could “swing through” Kemp Town to Madeira Drive to help the less mobile.

Councillor Platts said: “Kemp Town beach is the reason why a lot of people enjoy living here and to shut off the elderly and less mobile and families with babies and toddlers makes life very difficult for them.

“It’s all fine if you have a car and can drive down there and park and pay your parking fee but not everyone has a car or can afford one.

“Indeed, we are trying to discourage car use. Some residents feel they have been excluded for much of the summer season. There should have been replacement transport as soon as this was known.”

Councillor Nancy Platts

Councillor Platts won the committee’s backing for a feasibility study into a suitable bus service.

Green councillor Amy Heley, who chairs the committee, said that there were bus services on roads parallel to Madeira Drive as well as the number 7 serving Brighton Marina.

She said: “It is unlikely there is sufficient demand for a commercial service. Users could approach bus operators to suggest they run a service on an experimental basis.

“Given the commercial pressures that operators are under due to rising fuel and driver costs, they may not take the risk, unfortunately.”

Councillor Heley said that running a service would cost the council between £350,000 and £750,000 a year – and that resources were focused on maintaining existing routes.

Bus company chief executive Tom Druitt, who runs the Big Lemon, said that re-routing a current service would inconvenience existing passengers.

He said: “Brighton and Hove Community Transport operates door-to-door shopping services, coffee and cake clubs and special trips with support from Brighton and Hove City Council.

“We would be very happy indeed to run a few trial services to see if this is something that proves to be popular.”

  1. Neil Man Reply

    Where and how has the £350-750,000 been derived and quantified ? Seems incredibly expensive to run one bus, 16 hours per day?

    2 x drivers/day x 7 days @ say, £2k/week x 52 weeks = £104,000.
    Buy a bus for £100,000, that’s £10k/yr with a 10-yr life.
    Fuel, insurance, maintenance etc obvs, say £1k/wk, another £52k. That’s £166k/yr.
    Call it £200,000/yr. Way less than £350-750,000!

    • Phoebe Barrera Reply

      Don’t forget profit margins for Green Councillor Tom Druitt’s Big Lemon Bus Company in which would double costs.

      More interested in the number of people that would use the bus and how often and whether a council funded taxi service would be more cost effective?

  2. Billy Short Reply

    This article reads like a comedy sketch where all our local issues are being parodied.

    We do of course want to know why the Kemp Town lift is out of action once again.

    And I’ve never understood why there is no seafront bus service, running three times an hour from Hove lagoon to the Marina, with the Kemp Town section being along Madeira Drive.
    All other major seaside resorts have a similar service, and Blackpool famously has trams

    • mart Burt Reply

      Billy Short
      There have been several routes over the years that ran straight along the seafront but lack of use made them unviable.
      There’s the City sight seeing bus that runs from the Marina to Grand Avenue but that’s seasonal.

      While a service probably would be able to run from kemp town, it can only run on Marine parade and turn onto Madeira Drive because of the one way system .

      • Billy Short Reply

        The seafront now has businesses operating as never before, and never has our seafront been so busy year round as it is now. For sure there are quieter times which a bus timetable could easily adjust to.

        On topic, it’s weird this story is about one person asking for access because she is in a wheelchair. It is obvious that those with mobility issues should of course have easy access at all times.
        But the bigger picture here is that the rest of us would also like a seafront bus service – and we need that way before we waste money on duplicated cycle lanes painted in garish statement green.

        If only this council could have a city-wide transport strategy that made sense. This basic shared resource should not be about petty or ideological in fighting between the political parties.

        • Lina Talbot Reply

          Sure, you’re absolutely right, I wasn’t asking for my access in particular, at least I’m in an electric wheelchair which can reach the Black Rock end of Marine Parade and enter Madeira Drive from there. But when you talk to the people on St George’s Road, there are so many with poor mobility, with Zimmer frames, walking sticks, babes in prams and toddlers, not to forget the grandparents who perhaps are too afraid to venture out except when accompanied, and most certainly cannot manage the very high pitch line of the steps down the cliff face.

    • Lina Talbot Reply

      Yes, Billy, this is my first experience of a Council Committee meeting and it did have the feeling of a theatre play, people saying their lines and giving their judgements without opportunity for real discussion. Of course a diversion of one in five buses shouldn’t cost that amount, and inconvenience of some must be weighed against exclusion of others. I await the cost analysis with interest, as I’ve been awaiting a copy of the structural engineering report on Madeira Lift for over two weeks now.

  3. Jason Reply

    Did someone get the lift going again then? That’s news to me. I moved to Brighton in 1978, and the lift wasn’t working then.

    I’ve always assumed the lift was yet another thing the seemingly asset-stripping council had no intention of ever repairing, but then, I don’t get to the seafront very often nowadays.

  4. Derek Reply

    Councillor Heley replied saying there were lots of bus routes along St James Street Marine Parade and Edward Street, which is no help to anyone wanting to access the beach by bus. A seasonal circular bus route could run , when there are no events, along Madeira Drive and into Kemptown. 21 bus routes are subsidised using the councils transport budget to the tune of £10m, which is derived from the surplus made from parking fees and fines. So some cash might well be available. Bearing in mind that Madeira Drive west is one way eastbound and two ways between Dukes Mound to Black Rock means any new bus route would be circular and in one direction. The use of the Community buses seems the best idea maybe even using hail and ride. Well done Lina for getting the ball rolling .

  5. Phoebe Barrera Reply

    Don’t forget profit margins for Green Councillor Tom Druitt’s Big Lemon Bus Company in which would double costs.

    More interested in the number of people that would use the bus and how often and whether a council funded taxi service would be more cost effective?

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