The rail industry, accessibility experts and disability campaigners joined forces to launch new good practice guidance this week in Westminster, to encourage better customer experience for rail passengers using wheelchairs, based on improved awareness and understanding throughout the rail industry.
A new booklet, ‘Working Together’, published by RSSB, is aimed at staff at stations and on trains, their managers, and wheelchair users themselves, and is being used as a basis for briefing and refresher training of customer-facing rail staff as well as being made available on the web to rail passengers using wheelchairs.
Research by RSSB, supported by the whole industry, backed up concerns from groups representing disabled people about ramps in particular, including their compatibility and the way staff used them.
The findings have led to better, more consistent guidance and training for staff which should make boarding and alighting trains safer and easier for both wheelchair users and the railway workforce. The work has involved substantial input and dialogue with the organisations who train and employ customer-facing staff, such as Network Rail and the train operating companies, as well as wheelchair users who travel by train.
The guidance was formally launched at Church House, Westminster on 17 June with RSSB, Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), individual train operators, Department for Transport and a range of organisations and interested parties, including those representing disabled people such as the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), Disability Rights UK and Whizz-Kidz.
Ann Bates, formerly of DPTAC and a key advisor on the project said:
‘There has been a lot of progress in travel for wheelchair users with new rolling stock and I’m pleased to see the research, that DPTAC rail group had a hand in commissioning, as an opportunity for both staff and passengers to join in partnership to ensure that the boarding ramps are used safely. I hope this partnership will continue looking at other issues that still form barriers to full accessibility to the railways.’
Margaret Hickish, Access & Inclusion Manager at Network Rail said:
‘Network Rail runs 19 of the biggest and busiest stations and so it’s really important that our staff are well trained to help the millions of people travelling by rail complete their journeys as easily as possible. We’re pleased to have worked with both industry and charity partners on the research, as this is not just about improving rail travel but also about removing the myths around disability generally.’
David Sindall, Head of Disability & Inclusion at ATOC said:
‘More and more disabled people are now choosing to take the train while the support they’re offered is improving. The new guidance builds on the advances we’ve already made to the Passenger Assistance booking system and will help the industry to deliver a better experiences for wheelchair users.’
We help the industry understand risk, guide standards, manage research, development and innovation and collaborate to improve. For more information go to www.rssb.co.uk