The Office of Rail and Road have released new safeguarding measures to improve reliability of over a million requests for passenger assistance received each year on Britain’s railways.
These new guidelines are now in force at all train stations and operating companies following a successful trial by Network Rail, GTR and South West Railway. The requirements focus on improving the way staff communicate and coordinate passenger assistance between stations.
This should help put a stop to assistance failures and heighten the reliability of the service.
Train and station operators must now have:
- A dedicated assistance telephone number for every station;
- A ‘Responsible Person’ for each station who will safeguard calls to those numbers are answered
- A Handover Protocol to ensure that when those calls are answered, the vital information needed to coordinate the assistance delivery is given, such as the passenger’s assistance need, what train they are travelling on and their location on the train.
These new regulations are the result of thorough research and consolation conducted by the ORR, with the industry, into the primary causes of passenger assistance failures.
They were able to find that too often train and station operators were relying on informal and unreliable processes to communication and organise assistance between the passenger’s boarding and alighting stations.
These information failures all too frequently ended with assistance staff not being in the right place at the right time to deliver the alighting assistance.
In many cases station staff were either unsure of what number to call to start the handover process; or when they did know, there would be no answer.
In other cases, there was inadequate information given on the handover call to confirm that there was sufficient assistance when the passenger arrived at their destination.
Now when a passenger needs assistance, the boarding station will know precisely what number to call to reach the passenger’s alighting station; have certainty that it will be answered and; know exactly what information they must provide to enable the alighting station to deliver the assistance in a safe and timely way.
James Taylor, Executive Director, Scope said: “A genuinely accessible public transport network could make a huge difference to disabled people’s lives. As it is today, disabled people take a gamble with every journey they make.
“It’s great to see that the rail industry is taking steps to improve service provision for some disabled people. Improving the reliability of assistance provision and communications between stations has the potential to dramatically improve passenger experience. We hope that these changes will pave the way for disabled passengers to be able to travel with confidence in the service they are promised.”
Stephanie Tobyn, Deputy Director, Consumers at ORR said: “ORR wants all passengers that require assistance to travel safely with confidence and ease. That is our expectation, irrespective of whether a passenger books assistance in advance of their journey or wishes to travel spontaneously and request assistance at the station.
“Where the promised assistance fails it is extremely stressful for passengers. These changes will ensure that passengers can have more confidence in train and station operators’ capacity to better coordinate and provide assistance reliably.”