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Rail needs to do ‘much more’ to improve assistance for disabled people

Much more needs to be done to improve the reliability, consistency and awareness of assistance available to rail passengers, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has said.

Research by the regulator has found that 12% of passengers who booked assisted travel services did not receive any of the assistance that they had booked.

There were examples of staff not arriving to help the traveller, and reports of instances where staff were unable to relate to their needs.

The ORR is calling for rail companies to do more to increase awareness of the help that is available to passengers, and to improve its reliability, with better training for staff.

The research did find that most people who used Assisted Travel services were mostly satisfied with their experience.

Of those who pre-booked assistance, 85% of passengers were satisfied or very satisfied with the service, and 71% of passengers who received assistance without booking would recommend it.

However, when asked, over 50% of disabled passengers did not know that the Assisted Travel service was available.

The ORR wants to enhance its monitoring to see how well rail companies are meeting their obligations and to hold them to account for any poor performance.

Stephanie Tobyn, deputy director of consumers at the ORR, said: “When travel assistance works as intended, passengers find it a good service, but clearly more needs to be done to make it more reliable and consistent.

“A growing number of people with disabilities are travelling by train, and we want to make rail travel easier and more straightforward for them.

“That’s why we’ve carried out this research and identified where the service can be strengthened.

“We’re looking forward to working with industry and passenger groups to make improvements to this important service.”

Top image: Scacciamosche

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Andrew Gwilt   16/11/2017 at 01:48

I think railway stations that don't have disabled accessibility such as lifts and/or ramps needs to be improved or to replace old footbridges with new footbridges with ramps or lifts so that disabled passengers and parents with babies on pushprams can go from 1 platform to the other platform much easier to be able to catch the train. Including staff that will enable them to aboard and alight the train with portable disabled ramps that most railway stations do have.

Noam   16/11/2017 at 08:11

In an ideal world, yes Andrew, but good luck getting a business case together for a lift at Penhelig or Appleford. There are some cases where the assistance coming in the form of a taxi booked for the customer from the nearest accessible station - Bangor or Oxford for instance - is more appropriate.

Keith   16/11/2017 at 12:55

We've been waiting for Luton station to have access for all for years. Despite over 3.5m annual passengers, an urban area population of 260,000 and a direct Busway link to the Airport, we've still seen no action. Enough talking.

James Palma   16/11/2017 at 15:48

While it would be nice to provide provisions for people with disabilities, there does need to be a balance between supply and demand. For example, Keith says that 3.5 million pax use Luton a year. How many actually need facilities vs the cost of installation and whole life cycle maintenance?

Merry   17/11/2017 at 13:22

Always good to hear of improvement in physical accessibility to the rail network. Of course, mobility impairment is not the only disability group who need help to best use the railway. And nor is it the largest, although it is fair to say that "step free" access benefits many more than just the target group. There are perhaps 5x more with significant eyesight impairment, maybe 10x with hearing disability, not to mention those with cognitive issues who all need help to use the railway easily. It is sometimes concerning to have the phrase 'disability' trotted out for what TfL rightly call 'Step Free', as though all those other needs are not important. I would be so pleased to see the industry properly recognise and provide for for the many other disabilities that need it - genuine inclusivity! Please note, I do not want to denigrate the work put into the physical access issue, it's great to have, but it is only the tip of the iceberg excluding so many from easy use of public transport.

David.Ward   17/11/2017 at 13:52

Good to hear, but they need to do more in particular at Ebbesfleet International Station. If you are in a wheel chair or unable to get down the stairs to the Northfleet Platforms for your train the sign for disability is so small and insignificant by the taxi rank that anybody with such a disability as to look very hard to find the direction sign to the curving path to gain access to the ticket hall for these platforms. Come on High Speed One/South-Eastern you need to improve.

Thames Valley Traveller   17/11/2017 at 18:25

Millions has been and is being spent on lengthening the platforms from Paddington to Reading and beyond to take the new 387s and Crossrail trains. As an older person currently boarding a 16x/HST at Paddington, or other stations on the route, particularly where platforms are on bends, there is a massive gap between train and platform. No attention has been given to reduce this. Its not just those in wheelchairs, its older folk, CHILDREN, parents with buggies, and by asking for a ramp is fine when there is staff available, but if everyone who needs assistance asked for it, trains would spend at least 30 minutes at each station. If TFL can do it for circle/district, then there is no reason why ALL station rebuilds/extension cannot be modified. And do not give the excuse about suspension heights, the 166s are being lower for Bristol area, and when trains are in stations, the overhead electric is well away from reach. Network Rail MUST sort this issue.

Rupe   18/11/2017 at 04:05

Though not a silver bullet, would more use of kerb-climbing mobility scooters help? Doubtless they're more expensive - but perhaps government assistance with the price difference could give a mutually affordable solution? And could a significant number of stations be fitted with something like a stair lift - but with a fold-up platform in place of a chair? Again, not suitable for all stations at all times - but surely much better than nothing, probably easier to fit into station infrastructure, and costing just a few thousand instead of over a million each?

Mark Hare   20/11/2017 at 12:24

@Thames Valley Traveller - I'm interested to hear your solution for trains stopping at stations with curved platforms. Carriages are straight and some platforms are curved - consequently there is often a gap between train and platform. Are you actually suggesting all stations should have straight platforms? Meaning all tracks should be relaid to a straight alignment through stations and platforms rebuilt to facilitate easier boarding?

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