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Booking assistance for rail journeys

All train operators must provide assistance to you if you have impaired mobility, or are older and cannot travel without help.

The rail industry runs the Passenger Assist service. It gives information about which stations are accessible, and the facilities at those stations, and can arrange assistance for you.

We recommend that you give 24 hours’ notice for assistance if, for instance:

  • you need to avoid certain stations which are not accessible to you
  • you have impaired mobility or another disability which makes it difficult or impossible to step up into or down from trains
  • you cannot walk long distances easily – at some larger stations you can book help such as using the station’s wheelchair or electric buggy
  • you have a visual impairment
  • you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter and need ramps to get on and off the train and, where possible, to reserve a space aboard it
  • you need to be shown to a seat on the train
  • you cannot carry your luggage.

You can also reserve seats or a wheelchair space on some trains.

Each train company sets out its range of services to assist you in its ‘Making Rail Accessible – helping older and disabled passengers’ document – part of its Disabled People’s Protection Policy (DPPP). You can download it from the train company’s website or request that a printed copy be sent by post.

Always check whether the relevant rail company/companies can provide the assistance that you need when planning your journey and how much notice they need. The amount of notice necessary varies between companies; some do not need any notice at all.  All companies will do what they can to assist if you need to travel at short notice without booking, but those who have given notice will have priority.

If you cannot use a station (for example, due to stairs, steps or steep slopes to or from platforms) the company managing the station must pay for a taxi to take you to or from another station which is convenient for the journey you are making and accessible to you.

It is important that operators ensure that the taxi is accessible to you. Many ‘accessible’ taxis are designed to carry a wheelchair but may be wholly unsuitable for you if you cannot step up into it and stoop at the same time. Make sure that you specify your needs when booking if you need to travel by taxi. In some parts of the country fully-accessible taxis are rare and notice is usually necessary to book one.

If you need a ramp to help you get on or off trains you should say so when booking assistance; also if you need assistance to find a seat, if the train is not reservable.

You can book assistance by telephone, textphone or online. Many companies offer free-to-call numbers – although the cost of the call will depend on the contract with your telephone supplier. See the company’s website for contact details and when its lines are open for telephone calls.

Even if your journey involves travel on more than one company’s trains or through more than one company’s stations, the entire booking can still be arranged in a single phone call or email message to any of the companies. You can buy your ticket in the same phone transaction if sufficient time is allowed for delivery.

When you book assistance a unique reference number will be created for you for that booking. Confirmation of the details booked will be sent to you (by post or email). You should check that the details recorded tally with what you have asked for and if not, contact the company immediately to correct it.

If you need to have your luggage carried, be sure to mention this when you book assistance. Stations have no dedicated staff for this. The amount which can be carried for you is limited to what can be taken in a single move. This service is provided free of charge.

If your assistance was not provided as requested, or not provided at all, compensation may also be due. Check the DPPP of the company which let you down.

Transport Focus carried out research into the effectiveness of the Passenger Assist service in autumn 2013. Our report was published in spring 2014.

This was the third time we had tested the effectiveness and efficiency of the assistance service. As on previous occasions, we recruited from around the country a number of passengers with reduced mobility (some wheelchair users and some with mobility and/or visual impairments) because the best judges of a system are those who use it.

They carried out journeys from their local station and completed a questionnaire of their findings for each trip. A research agency compiled statistics from the passengers’ feedback.

The report showed that the booking process generally offers a good experience for passengers, but it also found that assistance needs to be delivered more consistently. While many passengers receive the service they need and book, some still do not. As a result, we set out a series of recommendations to improve the service delivered. Please click here to see the report and recommendations:


  • Train
  • Coach
  • Tram
  • Bus
  • Accessibility


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