Train passenger using a wheelchair ramp

UK: The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee has welcomed some proposed changes and makes a number of suggestions to improve accessibility strategy in its response to the government’s consultation on legislation to implement the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail Reform.

DPTAC acts as a statutory advisory body to the Secretary of State for Transport, providing informed advice as a ‘critical friend’ of government. DPTAC notes that it works within the government’s ‘confidentiality bubble’ and has a limited public presence.

In its response to the consultation, DPTAC says the ‘lack of a coherent, long-term’ strategy has been an obstacle to increasing accessibility, and as such it strongly welcomes the introduction of a single ‘guiding mind’ for the rail sector.

It emphasises the need for Great British Railways to be held clearly accountable for accessibility, and agrees with the proposal for primary legislation requiring GBR’s licence to include specific duties in relation to accessibility. It says these duties must be unambiguous, rigorous, comprehensive and capable of effective monitoring and enforcement, and embrace the full range of disabilities both visible and non-visible. DPTAC suggests a five-yearly review of the duty with amendments if needed.

Transport for London staff assist a blind passenger

DPTAC says the reform programme includes the key components necessary to achieve the kind of culture change it wants to see, with the accessibility duty, a national strategy and a consolidated and better-prioritised physical improvement fund.

However, it would also like to see clear individual responsibilities for the delivery of accessibility at an executive and board level, linking remuneration to delivery; senior leadership of GBR and other stakeholders to complete enhanced disability awareness training; clear metrics for monitoring accessibility; accessibility impact assessments to be undertaken for all key policy and investment decisions; more disabled people to be employed in the industry; and the adoption of best practice from other sectors.

‘We have long advocated that accessibility needs to be at the very core of what the rail industry does in the way that safety is currently’, DPTAC says, adding that ‘disabled people are often viewed as just another passenger group, albeit with some specific needs, but this ignores the fact that no other passenger group has either the same kind of physical barriers to access, or the diverse and critical support needs’.