Network Rail regulation and performance

08.04.20

Rail Minister publishes open letter to Rail Delivery Group

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, has published an open letter to RDG asking the industry to proceed in their work ensuring that rail travel continues to operate throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

He opened the letter by thanking them for their regular updates throughout the outbreak and the key workers who are working hard to keep the railway running, so all those who need to get to work can do so, especially NHS staff on the frontline of tackling the virus.

He said: “It is critical that people who need to do so are able to travel to work in a safe and reliable manner during this challenging time for the country.

“I am writing to ask specifically that the industry continues to ensure the needs of disabled people are met during this time. Rail must, irrespective of the circumstances, always be accessible for all.”

Following work with operators, he said the government have strengthened their commitment to a more accessible railway in recent months, including announcing 124 stations to see a share of £20m for mid-tier improvements, as part of the £300m Access for All programme, and the launch of Its Everyone’s Journey, which pledges a safe journey to those with non-visible disabilities.

He continued: “Since the government issued advice for people to avoid travel unless necessary, I have been concerned to hear from disability campaigners about a few incidents at rail stations where individual passengers were apparently refused assistance.

“I feel strongly that social distancing measures should not limit access in this way and would request that staff have access to clear guidance to ensure they can support all passengers using our railways. I would like to thank you for your assurances that RDG has updated its guidance for operators, so rail workers can remain safe without building barriers to travel for disabled key workers.”

He closed the letter by saying: “We will be working closely with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to investigate any reports of failure to provide assistance to disabled people during the COVID-19 outbreak. Our position on accessibility remains the same, even in these extraordinary times, delivering an accessible service for every passenger is essential to creating an inclusive railway.”

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