More evidence emerges that closing train ticket offices is the thin end of a disastrous wedge for disabled people

A Southern Rail train and a campaigner
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More evidence has emerged showing just how inaccessible the UK rail network is for many chronically ill and disabled people. It comes amid the scandal of the government-backed train operators’ plan to close the majority of ticket offices at England’s stations.

Britain’s train network: not completely accessible

The Office for Rail and Road (ORR) is the government’s independent regulator – specifically here, of train travel. It has released its annual report into passengers’ experiences of the rail network. The findings for chronically ill and disabled people were not good.

Part of the report looked at the Passenger Assist scheme. As the ORR wrote, this:

is a service that enables passengers with disabilities, or other people who may require help, to book and receive assistance to enable them to make their rail journey. Rail companies’ participation in Passenger Assist is mandated through the regulatory requirement to have an Accessible Travel Policy (ATP) approved by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). The purpose of Passenger Assist is to make rail travel accessible to everyone. Passenger Assist is open to anyone who needs assistance; this could be due to a disability or long-term health condition, a temporary health issue or old age.

So, the ORR looked at people’s experiences of Passenger Assist. In its research, speaking with over 8,000 people, the ORR found that the majority of people were happy their experience. It noted that:

  • 90% of people were satisfied with “the entire process of Passenger Assist throughout the passenger’s journey”.
  • 81% got “all of the assistance types that they booked”.

However, there was a significant number of people who experienced issues. Specifically, the ORR found that:

there are still too many passengers receiving only some (10%), or none (8%) of the assistance that they booked. This means that just under one in five (18%) did not receive all the assistance that they had booked for their journey.

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It also found that 26% of people “who booked a taxi service to provide assistance to or from an inaccessible station” did not actually get it. 14% of people were not satisfied with Passenger Assist when it involved an unstaffed station.

Chronically ill and disabled people: at the sharp end of train issues

Moreover, there were specific problems for chronically ill and disabled people. For example, one disabled survey respondent said:

It took them far too long to get the equipment for the ramp to get me off the train. I then needed the toilet, a porter came but he had no key. I wet myself as I waited 15 minutes for a key to be found for the toilet.

Their experience is shown in the ORR’s figures. For example:

  • 15% of people did not get the assistance they booked to alight the train.
  • 16% did not get their assistance to the wheelchair area.
  • 16% did not get assistance “to and from connecting services”.
  • 17% did not get assistance to get “in/out of the station”.

And, as the ORR also added:

Those whose journey experience would be made more accessible using a mobility aid or wheelchair (11%), places to rest (11%), accessible / blue badge parking (10%), seats with backs and arms (10%) and step free access (9%) were more likely to state that they didn’t receive this assistance, where they had booked it.

So, overall, the UK’s rail network is still not completely accessible. And now, train operators want to close ticket offices as well.

Ticket office closures: compounding the inaccessibility

As the Canary previously reported, 23% of disabled people are internet non-users. Ticket vending machines are often inaccessible. Plus, wheelchair users can only get their 50% discount on tickets from an office. So, even before disabled people get to an inaccessible station, and don’t get the assistance they booked, they’ll now have an additional barrier via train operators closing ticket offices.

The UK rail network should be accessible for all. However, it currently isn’t, as the ORR report shows. Train operators closing ticket offices will merely compound this issue.

Featured image via Wikimedia and the Canary

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