18 May 2017
RMT Press Office:
On the day of the TUC disabled members conference rail union RMT has warned that cuts to staffing are set to wreck disability access targets set for 2020.
A devastating report from 2015 commissioned by the Association of Train Operating Companies - now the Rail Delivery Group - considers how accessible Britain’s railway network will be to older and disabled people by 1st January 2020, the date by which all rolling stock must meet legal accessibility requirements.
The report, produced by Ann Frye Ltd, Rail Accessibility Ltd and MWW Transport Consultants clearly stresses that the accessibility of stations is also affected by the availability of staff either on the train or the platform.
At the time of writing a shocking 45% of stations were without staff at some times and 44% were completely unstaffed, even though trains are operating. Therefore 89% of stations would have then been without any staff at some points of the day.
The report goes on to say “Similarly if the trains themselves have no one to give assistance this acts as the other half of the equation and is important for similar reasons because, whether on station or on train, there is clear evidence that older and/or disabled people value staff presence and face to face contact during their journey”
It concludes “It is difficult too, in legal terms, to see how trains with no staff to provide assistance running through unstaffed stations cannot come under the heading of a “provision, criterion or practice” that discriminates (Section 20 of the Equality Act).
The train operating companies have therefore known all this for over two years as the report goes onto say: “Critically, it is the conductors who are in the front line in providing assisted boarding and alighting, including deploying platform-train ramps where appropriate, at the majority of platforms which are not staffed. It is Conductors who are best placed to ensure that assistance is delivered effectively and in accordance with the law”
The recommendation in the report is clear “There should always be on-board staff available to assist passengers at unstaffed stations. These staff should have appropriate training in Rules and professional competence in this area. Urgent consideration should be given to how current policies on staffing levels can be modified to ensure that greater progress towards accessibility is maintained”.
Mick Cash RMT General Secretary said:
“This comprehensive report finally blows the lid on an industry conspiracy to extend the coverage of Driver Only Operation even though it is clear that in doing so, they will fail to ensure there is the necessary assistance available to older, vulnerable and disabled passengers.”
“To never publish this report shames the Rail Delivery Group and exposes the Office for Road and Rail and the Department for Transport as being utterly complicit in the failure to regularly assess the quality of delivery and enforcement of the requirements that should apply to all the train operating companies.”