Transport Focus and accessibility
Transport Focustakes accessibility matters on the railway very seriously.
Some of our areas of activity in this sphere include:
- pressing for improvements to operators’ DPPPs when new franchises are let;
- checking in detail the draft DPPPs of new operators and recommending improvements if necessary;
- discussing DPPPs with the Office of Rail Regulation;
- encouraging all operators to adopt best practice;
- meeting rail companies and the industry on a regular basis to discuss accessibility matters;
- researching the design of new trains and gaining passengers’ views.
Transport Focus meets the Department for Transport frequently to discuss and monitor progress on the Railways for All scheme, bringing step-free access improvements to a large number of stations across the country. We also consider schemes such as the provision of:
- accessible toilets
- tactile paving at platform edges
- improved colour contrast on footbridges and stairs
- handrail improvements to modern standards
- non-slip flooring
- induction loops for hearing-aid users at ticket offices, help points, public address systems and so on
- modern public address and customer information systems
- improved lighting
- accessible ticket counters.
Transport Focusfacilitates a national forum for all accessibility organisations to discuss research and best practice as well as any other matters of mutual interest. Attendees include, for instance, the Royal National Institute of Blind People RNIB, Action Hearing Loss, Guide Dogs, Transport for All, Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, the Department for Transport, Office of Rail Regulation, Trailblazers and Mind. It meets at least twice a year in London. All representative organisations are welcome to attend.
Transport Focusis also consulted on exemptions from the regulations on train and station design. Where space does not permit or where changing existing trains or buildings would otherwise be too costly, the operator can apply to have some of the legal requirements relaxed. The improvement will still result in a better environment for passengers but will not quite meet the exacting standards usually required. Provided that the proposals are not too far from the regulations Transport Focuswill usually not oppose the proposal. The Department for Transport makes the final decision on whether they can go ahead. (A recent case involved the creation of new toilets at a very busy interchange station in the London suburbs. If standard guidelines had been strictly followed only two – unnecessarily large – toilet cubicles could have been installed. By slightly reducing the size of each cubicle, three toilets were provided to help meet demand at this busy station, including an additional accessible toilet.)
National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS)
When undertaking the NRPS, in which passengers answer questions about the specific journey they are making at that time, we ask all passengers to show if they have any mobility impairment. This enables us to draw extra details from the final data to show inform us of how some disabled passengers use the rail network.
In Autumn 2013 Transport Focus(with additional funding from Network Rail and the Department for Transport) undertook research into the effectiveness of the recently-revamped Passenger Assist service. We used mystery shoppers to undertake journeys which we specified to record their experiences of the booking process and of the journeys themselves and how well the assistance that they required was provided.
The results, published in March 2014, showed that the booking process generally offers a good experience for passengers but it also found a need for more consistent delivery of assistance. While many passengers receive the service they book, some still do not. As a result of this, we set out a series of recommendations, shown at the back of the report.