Rail regulator calls for more consistent and reliable travel assistance

15 November 2017

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today published research showing that the majority of passengers using travel assistance are satisfied or very satisfied with the help they receive, however more needs to be done to improve the reliability, consistency and awareness of assistance available.

ORR’s large-scale research shows that satisfaction among passengers using Assisted Travel services is relatively high. 85% of passengers that pre-booked assistance were satisfied or very satisfied and 71% of passengers that received assistance but didn’t book said they would recommend the service.

However, 12% of passengers did not receive any of the assistance they booked, for example staff not turning up and some also report instances where staff are unable to relate to their needs or concerns.

ORR is calling for rail companies to do more to increase awareness of the help available, strengthen the reliability of their assistance and ensure that all staff receive better training. In particular:

  • Improve reliability through better communication between and within rail companies to make sure passengers receive the assistance they have asked for at all points of their journey;
  • Increase awareness of the travel assistance available through improving written and online material and closer working with disability agencies (over 50% of those asked were not aware of the assistance available);
  • Strengthen staff training, to make journeys easier for people with disabilities, particularly those with hidden ones; and
  • Enhancing ORR’s existing monitoring to see how well rail companies are meeting their obligations and to hold them to account for any poor performance.

ORR is today bringing the industry together in the first of a series of events, which will include a December meeting* with disability representative groups to discuss how to further improve travel assistance.

Stephanie Tobyn, Deputy Director of Consumers at the ORR commented:

“When travel assistance works as intended, passengers find it a good service, but clearly more needs to be done to make it more reliable and consistent.

A growing number of people with disabilities are travelling by train, and we want to make rail travel easier and more straightforward for them.

That’s why we’ve carried out this research and identified where the service can be strengthened. We’re looking forward to working with industry and passenger groups to make improvements to this important service."

For more information contact Giorgio.DeFaveri@orr.gov.uk, 020 7282 0124.

*This event has now been replaced with a series of direct meetings with disability representative groups, to allow for more in-depth conversations.

Notes to editors

  1. Assisted Travel consultation and research
    A consultation is being launched alongside the publication of three research reports at an event held today with representatives of the rail industry; the next event* in the series will take place with representatives of disability advice agencies in December.
  2. *This event has now been replaced with a series of direct meetings with disability representative groups, to allow for more in-depth conversations.

  3. The full programme of research comprised of interviews, surveys and mystery shopping exercises which together involved a sample of over 5,000 people (the majority of whom were actual passengers who had recently used assisted travel). Each report and the consultation can be found after the embargo lifts.

    Passenger Assist users were asked to rate their overall satisfaction with the service (i.e. based on all journeys taken using Passenger Assist). 85% of respondents said they were satisfied with the service (based on 4,060 responses).

    Mystery shoppers were asked whether they would recommend Turn-up-and-go to others with the same disability as them based on their journey experience. 71% said they would recommend it, 29% said they would not (based on 316 responses).

    Passenger Assist users were asked if they received all of the assistance that had been booked for that specific journey leg; 81% received all of the assistance they had booked; 7% received some of the assistance they had booked; 12% received none of the assistance they had booked. Based on 4,060 responses.
  4. Assisted Travel
    There are two types of Assisted Travel; booked assistance known as Passenger Assist, and spontaneous travel known as ‘Turn up and go’.
    • Passenger Assist is a free service which rail companies must offer to passengers with disabilities, or anyone else who may require help, to provide assistance to enable them to make their journey. Passengers request assistance by booking it in advance of their journey. Rail companies can, as a maximum, require bookings to be made 24 hours prior to travel, although some companies require less.
    • ‘Turn Up And Go’ is a travel assistance service that train companies must offer, where reasonably practicable, without the need to book in advance. The ability to offer assistance may depend on circumstances on the day.