Since 2016, we have been calling on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to intervene in discriminatory policies of railway destaffing. We gained our first breakthrough in 2019, thanks to the vital contribution of Ann Bates O.B.E., the former rail chair of a government advisory committee on transport acessibility (DPTAC).
The EHRC went public with its opposition to driver-only operation (DOO) in February 2019, in a letter to the Transport Select Committee. In September 2019, it established a legal fund for transport discrimination, announced as part of an official ‘warning to operators’ about railway destaffing.
“Spontaneous travel is fundamental to the rights of disabled people”
In March 2019, the EHRC published one of the most important legal arguments yet on the right to ‘turn up and go’ travel. They gave a clear warning to the Office of Rail and Road that train companies’ overreliance on pre-booking could be in breach of: the duty to make reasonable adjustments under section 20 of the Equality Act 2010; and the right to independent living under section 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The only way that train companies can meet their legal duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ is for the government to mandate sufficient staffing numbers for the entire network. The EHRC points out Transport for London’s model as an example, which already guarantees turn up and go assistance.
Legal support fund for transport discrimination
The EHRC legal fund for transport stopped making grants in May 2020, and finally closed in July 2020. During its nine months of operation, it assisted with 26 matters at a total spend of £48,870.
The EHRC informed us that the legal fund was wound down early due to their reprioritisation in light of the COVID pandemic, and a lack of new applications during lockdown. However, they added: “we will still consider applications from legal representatives for cases that may meet our business priorities and the criteria in our strategic litigation policy.”
A legal test case establishing the right to spontaneous rail travel is highly anticipated by accessibility experts, including the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC). Legal action is now the most powerful move available to campaigners; to ensure that disabled people can never again be denied travel on an equal basis.
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[This page remains under editing and was last updated on 09/07/2022.]