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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

Majority of passengers with disabilities report problems using trains

Date: 18/7/2019
Summary: Two-thirds of passengers with disabilities still experience barriers to travel when using trains, government research has found.

A lack of accessible toilets in carriages, being unable to use ticket machines and antisocial behaviour were among the issues cited by respondents to the Department for Transport (DfT) survey.

Of those who said they had faced problems during train journeys, 37% said onboard announcements were unclear, while 29% of people surveyed said they had been on a train with no toilets onboard that they could use.

James Taylor, the head of policy at the disability equality charity Scope, said: “Problems such as inaccessible vehicles, poor customer service, and lack of up-to-date information can make it very difficult for disabled people to get to work, socialise and live independently.

“Worryingly, this research has found half of disabled people anticipate experiencing a problem before it has happened when using the rail network.”

Another 31% of passengers with disabilities said they had experienced antisocial or discriminatory behaviour from other passengers, including receiving aggressive responses after asking to sit in a priority seat.

Some said a perceived “hierarchy” of need in terms of priority seating on trains was often behind such conflicts, with those with less visible disabilities sometimes considered to be less in need.

Because of issues such as inaccessible stations and the lack of priority seating on trains, many passengers with disabilities said they also had to meticulously plan journeys: travelling at off-peak times, booking ahead and ensuring they left enough time to allow for unplanned events such as encountering a broken lift.

Although 20% of respondents said they booked passenger assistance in advance before travelling by train, the service is not available at some stations and overall awareness of it was low.

Some passengers also reported accessibility problems at stations, with one challenge being the number of physical tickets, including seat reservation slips, required for a journey.

Others said that if ticket offices were closed, machines could be difficult for wheelchair users or those with dexterity impairments, dyslexia, learning disabilities or vision impairments to use.

The research was conducted in 2017. There were more than 1,550 respondents, who had a range of disabilities including mental health conditions, mobility issues and vision or hearing impairments.

The DfT said: “We are acutely aware of the difficulties faced by disabled passengers using our railways, and we are working hard to deliver the upgrades needed. Since this research was commissioned over two years ago our inclusive transport strategy has delivered step-free access at around 1,500 stations.”

On Monday, the department announced it would spend an extra £20m on improving accessibility for rail passengers with disabilities.

Taylor said: “It is positive that government is taking this issue seriously by putting funding into making the rail network more accessible for disabled people. However, further work is needed from government, transport companies and passenger groups to make sure disabled people are able to have the same level of service as everyone else.”

Source: The Guardian


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