The new National Disability Strategy has been released today (28 July) and highlights the government's continued support to investigate new technologies for rail, in the hopes of making journeys easier for disabled passengers.
Included in the May 2021, Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, it stated that railways must improve meeting passenger needs if they want to avoid a car dependent society. Not only because of the environmental benefits, but to support disabled passengers, and others facing reduced mobility challenges on rail services.
So far, over 200 stations benefit from step-free access following the Access for All Programme, which was set in motion in 2006, together with smaller scale improvements at more than 1,500 stations. Now, over 3 quarters of rail journeys are made through step-free stations, compared to only half in 2005.
However, much more still needs to be done. Stated in the Williams-Shapps Plan, commuters have been let down over recent years, as public trust reached an all-time low in 2019, with only 20% of people trusting train travel - less than the number of people who trust banks and energy suppliers.
Additionally, according to statistics from the Department for Transport, it showed that disabled adults in England made 26% fewer trips and travelled 41% fewer miles than those without a disability.
Findings from the UK Disability Survey demonstrated that many disabled people feel that they are restricted in their day to day lives. This is due to the negative attitudes of others, lack of support at school and at work, and poorly designed homes, buildings and transport infrastructure.
There is now a push on improving communication between passengers and staff, and the new National Disability Strategy outlined there will be support in place by the end of March 2022, which will enable passengers to contact staff directly from their seat.
Other government projects set to improve journeys for disabled passengers include the Department for Transport’s first accessibility Transport Research and Innovation Grants Programme. The scheme will support 5 small businesses in developing technologies that will help to break down the barriers that prevent disabled passengers from travelling comfortably.
Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said “for the first time, we have real cross-government focus, with clearly set out priorities and aims.”
He continued, “we are absolutely committed to putting disabled people at the heart of government policy making and service delivery. Their voices, insights and experiences are central to this strategy and our future approach. By engaging disabled people, their families, carers and organisations, collectively we will deliver real and lasting change.
“That’s empowered us to focus on the things disabled people tell us are most important to them, and crucially they’ll be able to hold us to account as we deliver real and lasting change.”
On August 18, 2021 RTM will be hosting a virtual event around improving passenger experience across our network. Register to attend here.