DPTAC Investigation

The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) is the Department for Transport’s statutory advisor on accessibility, established as an independent body under the Transport Act 1985. The Department for Transport (DfT) is obliged by law to consult DPTAC’s expert panel on how changes to transport policy will affect the rights of disabled people.

The following DPTAC reports, letters and emails contain outspoken criticism of the DfT’s rail accessibility policies; especially its “toxic” and “illegal” programs of railway destaffing. None of the documents have been officially published.

The archive proves that the government has ignored DPTAC’s main recommendations for Great British Railways:

  1. Guaranteed staffing levels to provide unbooked ‘turn up and go’ assistance.
  2. A £6 billion investment for full station accessibility by 2060.

DPTAC Archive

Key documents received via Freedom of Information requests:

  • June 2019 – Legal questions for DfT ministers – Following years of concerns about the illegality of station destaffing and driver-only trains, DPTAC met with ministers to urge them to seek legal advice on the matter. Later that year, the DfT wrote to DPTAC to inform them that: “Activity around the Association of British Commuters FOI has unfortunately taken up the resource and time we had set aside to make progress on this over the summer…”
  • May 2019 – Working towards a fully accessible railway: a frame of reference for the Williams Review – DPTAC’s submission to the Williams Review is a damning analysis of structure and culture; calling for a “whole system approach” to make accessibility a fundamental part of the railway. DPTAC proposed new regulations and over £6 billion investment to bring the timeline for full station accessibility down to 40 years; from its current estimate of 100. However, only its proposal for a nationwide station audit has been taken forward in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail (Great British Railways). **Please note, a near-identical document was recently published on the gov.uk website with the inaccurate date of Nov 2020.
  • May 2019 – Letter to DfT ministers – DPTAC repeats its “frequently-stated concern over staffing levels and, in particular, the potentially toxic combination of driver-only operated trains and unstaffed stations”; and complains about “wholly inadequate” operational guidance on driver-only operation, under development at the Rail Delivery Group.
  • April 2019 – DPTAC’s Pay As You Go consultation response criticises the “piecemeal and disjointed” progress on smart ticketing, which leads to confusion and unfair penalties for passengers. DPTAC warns the government about the dangers of ticket office closures and destaffing, urging them to mandate sufficient staffing figures to provide ‘turn up and go’ unbooked assistance.
  • April 2016 – DPTAC’s Warning Letter to Peter Wilkinson, the civil servant widely believed to be the architect of the industrial dispute over driver-only operation:  “The toxic combination of driver-only operated trains and unstaffed stations fails to deliver a service that meets the needs of many disabled passengers. As a result DPTAC is seeking a guarantee that such policies cannot undermine the fundamental principle of accessibility – which would in any event be illegal.”

The urgent need for transparency at DPTAC

In May 2022, we accused DPTAC of failing to meet its obligations under Freedom of Information (FOI) law to publish ‘proactively’ about its work. In response, DPTAC’s Chair, Keith Richards, pledged to adopt an FOI-compliant ‘model publication scheme’.

On 29th July, DPTAC published its response to the Williams-Shapps consultation, concluding that the government’s proposals for rail accessibility “will be insufficient to achieve real cultural change.”

On 5th August, DPTAC updated the government website to show it had adopted an FOI-compliant publication scheme. We await the official publication of its latest work, meeting minutes, and important historic documents; including those archived above.

DPTAC’s new role

DPTAC is now undergoing its biggest reform since 1985; and will become statutory advisor to ‘Great British Railways’ under a new Transport Bill expected as soon as this autumn. The DfT is also appointing a new DPTAC Chair.

In August 2022, accessibility campaigners spoke out in Disability News Service about the urgent need for transparency, independence and much better stakeholder engagement from DPTAC.

For more information: contact@abcommuters.com

[This page remains under editing as new documents are released. It was last updated on 13/08/2022]

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