Rail Accessibility

Disabled campaigners protest at London Bridge station. Their placards read: "Rail Access Now!"

We’ve been campaigning for guaranteed ‘turn up and go’ travel since 2016; with a focus on railway destaffing. In 2019, we gained an intervention from the Equality and Human Rights Commission; which condemned the railway’s discriminatory policies, and set up a legal fund for transport discrimination.

We have also exclusively published dozens of documents revealing government and rail industry plans for increased driver-only operation (DOO); station destaffing; and ticket office closures:

1. Investigation into the Disabled People’s Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC): As statutory advisors to the Department for Transport, DPTAC has produced some of the most important studies on transport accessibility available today. Since 2016, they have repeatedly given official warnings to the Department for Transport about the ‘toxic and illegal’ combination of DOO and unstaffed stations; emphasising the strong possibility of a legal challenge.

2. Investigation into driver-only operation and destaffing: The private rail industry has been developing plans to remove guards from trains since 2014. Leaked reports and email correspondence reveal that the Rail Delivery Group has played a central role in the cover-up.

Britain’s inaccessible railway:

These statistics originate in the ‘On Track for 2020 report’ (2015). The report was buried by the Rail Delivery Group until we revealed it on this website in 2017.

Though seven years out of date, the above statistics are currently the best information available on the accessibility of Britain’s rail network. A data-gathering exercise by DPTAC in February – May 2020 suggested that the combination of driver-only operation and unstaffed stations was preventing ‘turn up and go’ accessibility at 12-17% of Britain’s stations.

Both DPTAC and the EHRC have called for a mandated minimum staffing model to ensure ‘turn up and go’ travel – with guaranteed staff availability at trains and/or stations, but never neither. Currently, where there is no staff available, train operators are likely to be in breach of both the Equality Act and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. During the 2019 general election, it emerged that the estimated cost of guaranteeing a guard on every train would be £100 – £200 million.

Current campaigns:

  • The economic case for a full staffing model: On 26th July 2022, we exclusively revealed a new report from DPTAC, showing that railway destaffing not only prevents spontaneous travel: it undermines the value of billions of pounds of investments in the railway; and creates ‘perverse incentives’ for train companies, jeopardising future investment.
  • Campaign to extend the Williams-Shapps consultation: On 22nd July 2022, we accused Grant Shapps of rushing through the Williams-Shapps consultation, and demanded an extension to the consultation on the future of Great British Railways. The failures to properly consult on accessibility, smart ticketing, and staffing represent just a few of the weaknesses running throughout the consultation.
  • Campaign for transparency at DPTAC: In May 2022, we accused DPTAC of failing to meet its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act to ‘proactively publish’ important documents. They agreed to implement a new publishing policy; to include meeting minutes, consultation responses and official correspondence.

For more information: contact@abcommuters.com

[This page was last updated on 01/08/2022]

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