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01.02.17

TOCs to improve disabled toilet access after Paralympian embarrassment

Rail operators are working to improve disabled passengers’ access to toilets on trains and at stations following talks between senior industry figures and the rail minister Paul Maynard.

The government has agreed with operators that clearer information should be made available to disabled passengers prior to journeys about the accessibility of toilets, including whether facilities are out of order.

The agreement comes after a high-profile incident in which the Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike revealed that she was forced to wet herself on a CrossCountry train journey because the on-board facilities were not working.

“I take the issue of accessibility on our railways extremely seriously and these commitments from industry are just one step forward to improve things,” Maynard said.

“It is vital that all people, including disabled passengers, are able to use public transport and I will continue to push train companies on this matter.”

In addition to the above measures, the Department of Health will also work with train companies to improve staff training regarding accessibility, and maintenance teams will be asked to fix accessible toilets more quickly when problems arise.

It has been mandatory since 1999 that all new trains with toilets are built with accessible toilets; however, the measure does not apply to trains built before then, which must comply by 2020.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators and Network Rail, offered assurance that the rail industry is looking to modernise its information, trains and stations, with some of its infrastructure dating back to the Victorian era.

“When things go wrong, rail companies want to put them right, and we are keen to hear directly from people with disabilities to understand their experiences which is why the industry is already engaging more with disability groups to understand how we can improve,” Plummer said.

Over 150 stations have already been upgraded with new signs, ramps and lifts under the government’s Access for All programme, which looks to improve accessible access to stations, while a further 68 will see improvements by the end of 2019.

The DfT is set to publish its accessibility action plan later this year, addressing accessibility across all forms of public transport.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

James Palma   01/02/2017 at 20:26

It is absolutely terrible that ANYONE has a toilet accident. Not just disabled people. When will people start to accept that disabled people are everyday people and not someone special that shoud be treat differently to anyone else??? Everyone deserves respect and to be treat with respect and to have amenities available to them. And just to point out to the bleeding heart lovey doveys. I am registered disabled and have a bowel complaint that requires rapid access to a loo, even though i look, behave and act able bodied.

Manchester Mike   01/02/2017 at 20:28

Very well said James!

Jerry Alderson   03/02/2017 at 13:19

There will be cases when toilets are aout of action. Cross Country, which was the operator where the Paralympian suffered distress, is one of the more difficult franchises to maange because of the long distances the trains cover and the lack of spare rolling stock. It is difficult for XC to take a train out of service to fix a toilet (unlike commuter operators where trains could be swapped). There is no excuse for the toilet defect not being logged on a computer system as soon as it is discovered, with information provided immediately to all railway systems so that passengers can be aware of it. Mobile apps used by passengers should be able to show any irregularities with a specific service so that they can make other decisions, e.g. use the toilet at the station or take a different train. If the toilet is out of use then operators must allow flexibility where tickets have restrictions. Trains should ideally have more than one accessible toilet. Obviously this will depend on how long the train is, but a 12-car Class 700, for example, should have at least two.

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