Improving access to Britain’s railways

16 January 2015

Tomorrow (17 January 2015) is Disabled Access Day. The day is all about people getting out and about and visiting new places – and it provides a good opportunity to highlight ORR's current work with passengers, the rail industry and developers to help improve rail services for disabled passengers.

Getting the right processes in place

There are around 11 million people in the United Kingdom with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability (Department of Work and Pensions statistics). Around a fifth of disabled people report having difficulties in accessing transport as a result of their impairment or disability –for example in accessing transport information such as poorly articulated audio announcements or hard to read digital information.

ORR is responsible for making sure that train and station operators have policies and practices in place which meet the varied needs of disabled passengers –this is called the disabled people's protection policy (DPPP).

Train operators are required to have an approved DPPP as part of their licence to operate. DPPPs must provide details of how train companies will protect the interests of disabled passengers using their trains and stations, such as explaining how disabled passengers will be assisted when train service disruptions occur with little or no notice.

In many areas the systems work well but there is scope for improvement.

In December, we issued new guidance for train operators to make sure they meet the policy requirements. This followed a review we had conducted, which raised questions about how DPPPs may be applied in practice and whether they are detailed enough. We have asked all train operators to review and where necessary change their policies in light of the new guidance.

To learn more about how ORR is working to make rail travel easily accessible to all visit: http://orr.gov.uk/info-for-passengers/passengers-with-disabilities

Open data to improve access

In October 2014, ORR and the Open Data Institute hosted a workshop with industry stakeholders to investigate problems with the existing services, challenges faced by disabled rail passengers and how access to rail information could be improved.

The workshop highlighted a significant market and demand for better access to the railways for disabled passengers. It also identified a wealth of ideas for providing information to passengers in a variety of ways, as well as organisations who could use the data to provide these services. One potential idea was the development of a ticket booking system through which passengers could also personalise the service for their needs, book assistance simultaneously and receive push notifications about disruptions.

It also showed that currently much of this thinking is fragmented and disparate – but demonstrated the great potential of collaboration when passengers, developers and industry leads are brought together to jointly consider solutions with a common aim.

Now these ideas need to be turned into action by developing products which have a positive impact for disabled passengers.

To learn more about the workshop, read the report pdf icon PDF, 307 Kb in full.