INTRO: Richard Armitage reports on progress with drawing up and implementing regulations governing accessibility to public transport and rail vehicles in Europe. In Britain, Rail Accessibility Regulations requiring all new main line rolling stock to be accessible to wheelchairs will come into force on December 31

MUCH of COST335, the Europe-wide action research which aims to identify best practice in heavy rail accessibility for people with reduced mobility, is gathering pace. Following the October 1997 COST335 Seminar, four working groups have been established, covering stations, rolling stock, information and staff training, and economics and marketing.

European Commission and national government representatives have been joined on the working groups by rail operators and disabled people’s organisations. Preliminary reports from all four groups were due in time for a meeting in Stockholm on June 5. This will be followed later in the year by the COST335 Interim Report, which will be compiled by those people chairing the working groups. Meanwhile, a description of what is happening is being made available on the Internet, using the European Commission’s usual research web

Ann Frye, who heads the Mobility Unit at Britain’s Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, chairs the COST335 committee. She is also responsible for overseeing the introduction of the new Rail Accessibility Regulations, as laid out in the UK Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (sections 46-49). These will come into force on December 31 1998, after which date all new rolling stock will have to be wheelchair accessible.

The Regulations were due to be published last month for consultation and then approval by Parliament. They will comprise detailed technical regulations, and will cover items such as: