Record numbers of people with disabilities are travelling by train.
The good news coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Disabled Persons Railcard. Taking the train may be easier but changing the public’s attitude to disabled people is still a struggle.
Says Hannah Hollingworth of the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity, ‘We hear stories from disabled people of being stepped over in train carriages, trapped in toilets, and having to wait a long time for assistance.’
Research by ATOC shows that journeys made using the railcard have more than trebled in the last 15 years, accounting for 3.5 million journeys a year. The Railcard, launched in 1981 offers passengers a third off the cost of most tickets.
The rail industry itself has endeavoured to make travel easier for disabled people. Staff receive special training and stations are in the main fully accessible. In 2009, ATOC launched Stations Made Easy, an interactive web guide showing access facilities and layouts of all 2,500 stations in Britain.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was extended to cover the railways in 2005, leading to the removal of all trains with slam doors. The Passenger Assistance Scheme allows disabled people to book ahead as a way of ensuring that they get the assistance they need.
Says David Sindall, Head of Disability and Inclusion at ATOC, ‘Accessible public transport plays a key role in allowing disabled people to lead an independent life, so it’s good news that more and more people are taking advantage of the Railcard.
‘Over the last three decades huge progress has been made in improving rail services for disabled people, making their journeys quicker, easier and more straightforward than they used to be.
‘Train companies are committed to responding to passengers’ needs and will continue to work closely with disability charities and support groups to improve services even further.’