4 February 2023
RMT Press Office:
EHRC expresses concerns over changes to rail services impacting on disabled passengers.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has expressed concerns over changes to rail services that could impact on the disabled and vulnerable.
Responding to a letter signed by dozens of MPs and peers, highlighting the impact of ticket closures and Driver Only Operation (DOO) on vulnerable passengers, the EHRC said:
"We know that, for many people, public transport provides an essential and sometimes the only means of getting to school or work.
"It is a critical gateway to opportunity and an important component of the Government’s own levelling up strategies.
"We therefore share your concerns that changes to how some rail services operate are making rail travel more inaccessible.
"We have received a number of reports about changes in staffing arrangements at stations and on trains, and allegations that operators are unable to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled travellers, as required by the Equality Act 2010. This includes rail services that are under contractual obligation via a National Rail contract with the Secretary of State for Transport."
The EHRC has also not ruled out using its enforcement powers and taking legal action to ensure rail services remain accessible to all.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "We welcome the comments from the EHRC, and they reflect the equalities issues raised by RMT since the prospect of ticket office closures and DOO was raised.
"Accessibility is a key component of railways and vulnerable groups such as the disabled must be at the forefront of ministers minds when making changes to the network.
"RMT is committed to campaigning for disabled passengers and ensuring good terms and conditions for its members."
Baroness Falkner of Margravine
Chair, Equality and Human Rights Commission Windsor House
50 Victoria Street
By email to: email@example.com
Dear Lady Falkner,
Rail staffing and accessibility
3rd November 2022
We are writing to you in light of recent reports regarding the likely widespread closure of ticket offices and a further extension of Driver Only Operation across the rail network, and the potential impact of these policies on the accessibility of the rail network for disabled and elderly people.
We are concerned that ticket office closures and an extension of DOO could lead to a de- staffing of the rail network, which in turn could mean that train operators are unable to meet their duties under equalities legislation regarding access to public transport for disabled and elderly people.
As you may be aware, the potential impact of such transport policies on accessibility was recognised by the then Chair of the EHRC in 2019 in correspondence to the Chair of the Transport Select Committee in which he stated:
““...the impact of ongoing transport policies remains a concern, in particular the move to driver only operated (DOO) trains, as well as reductions in staffed stations. We believe that the shift to DOO trains, with the increased likelihood of there being no second member of staff on board to assist passengers, and a decrease in staffed stations could represent a diminution of protection for disabled people, and potentially be a breach of the Equality Act 2010.”
The Government’s Disabled Persons’ Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) has on numerous occasions warned the Government of the ‘toxic combination’ of DOO trains and unstaffed stations.
Given these concerns, we would be grateful if the Commission were able to investigate the potential impact of transport policies on the accessibility of the rail network and operators’ abilities to meet their equality duties.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Ian Mearns MP
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Lord Hendy KC
Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP
Apsana Begum MP
Olivia Blake MP
Richard Burgon MP
Dawn Butler MP
Ian Byrne MP
Dan Carden MP
Rosie Cooper MP
Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP
Tim Farron MP
Margaret Greenwood MP
Emma Hardy MP
Kim Johnson MP
Ian Lavery MP
Clive Lewis MP
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP Caroline Lucas MP
Kenny MacAskill MP
Rachael Maskell MP
Andy McDonald MP
Rt Hon John McDonnell MP
Ian Mearns MP, Chair, RMT Parliamentary Group
Grahame Morris MP, Vice-Chair, RMT Parliamentary Group Charlotte Nichols MP
Kate Osamor MP
Kate Osborne MP
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
Rt Hon Liz Saville Roberts MP
Chris Stephens MP
Zarah Sultana MP
Jon Trickett MP
Mick Whitley MP
Nadia Whittome MP
Mohammad Yasin MP
Rt Hon Valerie Vaz MP
Ian Mearns MP House of Commons London SW1A 0AA By email only
Dear Mr Mearns,
Rail staffing and accessibility
4 January 2023
Thank you for your letters of 3 November highlighting concerns about the closure of ticket offices across the rail network, a further extension of driver-only operation and the potential impact of these policies on the accessibility of the rail network for disabled and elderly people.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a long-standing commitment to improving access to transport for disabled people.
We know that, for many people, public transport provides an essential and sometimes the only means of getting to school or work. It is a critical gateway to opportunity and an important component of the Government’s own levelling up strategies.
We therefore share your concerns that changes to how some rail services operate are making rail travel more inaccessible. We have received a number of reports about changes in staffing arrangements at stations and on trains, and allegations that operators are unable to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled travellers, as required by the Equality Act 2010. This includes rail services that are under contractual obligation via a National Rail contract with the Secretary of State for Transport.
We have various regulatory tools to use in response to concerns, such as those raised in your letter. In this case, we have written to senior officials at the Department for Transport and to the Chief Executive of the Office of Rail and Road to remind them of their responsibilities under the public sector equality duty. This includes thinking about the equality implications of decisions, monitoring impact and taking action to ensure that rail services are accessible for everyone. We will not hesitate to use our other regulatory tools such as our enforcement powers, where necessary.
We have separately been in contact with the Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority with parallel concerns about access for disabled passengers at airports. We were pleased to see that, on 13 December, the CAA called out unacceptable levels of airport accessibility performance. We will continue to work with the CAA and disabled people’s organisations to ensure progress is made.
The introduction of the new Transport Bill provides an opportunity to renew the Government’s commitment to accessible travel. We are pleased that a Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee has been established to provide expert advice, though they have raised concerns about accessibility investment and the need for deployment of staff to maximise meaningful accessibility for disabled rail users.
We have requested a meeting with the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail and Road to discuss these issues in person.
Baroness Kishwer Falkner
Equality and Human Rights Commission