Transport User Voice – August 2019 – Investing in a more accessible rail network

30 July 2019

£20million fund for disabled passengers

To mark the one-year anniversary of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Inclusive Transport Strategy, the Accessibility Minister, Nusrat Ghani MP, announced a new £20 million fund for improvements to help disabled users of the rail network.

The new fund will provide further small-scale accessibility improvements across the rail network such as tactile paving, handrails and humps to increase platform heights. Anthony Smith joined the Minister on a visit to two south east London stations. Hither Green station is one of the busiest on Southeastern’s network and also one of the most challenging to make fully accessible.

They also saw the transformation of New Eltham station under a previous scheme with a fully accessible interchange, step free access to every platform via lifts, a new footbridge and new accessible ticket windows.

The new investment in small accessibility improvements at stations is a welcome move to help rail passengers with disabilities travel freely and with greater confidence in the network. Small changes can mean big improvements for all passengers, including those with disabilities.

On the same day, the DfT published research carried out by Transport Focus about disabled rail passengers which informed the Inclusive Transport Strategy. One third of disabled passengers find rail as the quickest travel option but, sadly, one third of passengers reported experiencing at least one problem on their rail journey. Most problems were ‘on board the train’ such as access to toilets, priority seating or anti-social behaviour.

Other significant challenges were faced while planning a journey or buying a ticket. But these problems can differ hugely depending on the type of disability. So, for example, passengers with a learning disability reported much greater difficulty with buying tickets.

Being able to request assistance can be crucial for disabled passengers (see advice from National Rail Enquiries) but many people are still unaware that this facility exists. When passengers do request this assistance, they must be able to rely on the service – and while the process is getting better (compared to when Transport Focus first examined this topic closely in 2014) there are still too many instances of help not turning up when it should.

To accompany the DfT summary research report Transport Focus has also published additional research.

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