Leading disability activist Ann Bates OBE told RAIL she was “deeply disappointed” after 1,509 vehicles were given dispensation to run in 2020 having missed the December 31 2019 accessibility deadline, but not surprised.
Bates, who spent ten years chairing the DfT Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and who has advised manufacturers as well as train owners and agencies, told RAIL: “Along with most of the disability activists who have waited patiently and tried to work with the system for change, we are aware that the industry has had a huge number of changes to absorb. But as train accessibility has been discussed for 25 years and many pragmatic changes made to the criteria, surely much more progress should have been made?
“Of all the ‘protected groups’ covered by equality legislation, we are the ones still left in the 1980s through lack of communication, design and staff training trying to access transport. This needs a targeted change in policies.”
Her comments followed Government's criticism of the rail industry for missing the deadline for trains to comply with the regulations.
Writing to Rail Delivery Group Chief Executive Paul Plummer in December, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “It is extremely disappointing that the rail industry and train operators will fail to meet the deadline to provide accessible trains for every passenger and every journey by the end of the year.
“Owners and operators have had ten years to prepare for the December 31 2019 deadline. It is deeply frustrating that disabled passengers will still be waiting into 2020 to see accessibility improvements to some services.”
He said the Government is committed to ensuring all passengers can travel by rail with ease and confidence, adding that dispensations awarded to 1,509 vehicles “have not been used lightly”.
- For the FULL story, read RAIL 896, out now.
- For an in-depth analysis looking at the issue, and how Government was warned about the deadline, read RAIL 896, out now.