Improving Assisted Travel

The new Accessible Travel Policy Guidance for train and station operators sets out the commitments they must include in their policies for helping older and disabled people to travel by rail.

It is the culmination of the work we have undertaken to understand passengers' experience of this service and to bring greater quality, consistency and reliability for passengers that book in advance and those that request assistance at the station.

In November 2018 we consulted on proposals to amend the existing Disabled People’s Protection Policy Guidance, published in 2009 by the Department for Transport. The responses we received to that consultation (published here in a single document) reiterated the need for improvements to the experience and delivery of assistance, and provided a range of comments on our proposals.

After considering consultation respondents’ views, and a further statutory consultation with industry bodies on making the necessary licence changes, we are replacing the term Disabled People’s Protection Policy with Accessible Travel Policy. The revised Accessible Travel Policy Guidance contains new and updated requirements for operators to improve the experience of assisted travel.

New requirements for rail companies

  • Increase the reliability of assistance for disabled passengers by introducing a new standardised handover process for all GB mainline stations, in tandem with new arrangements to strengthen communication between stations and measures to introduce greater accountability for assistance provision to be introduced by June 2020.
  • Improve accessible journey planning by standardising key station accessibility information on facilities, step-free access and staffing to provide a better and more accurate picture of what disabled passengers can expect at each station.
  • Strengthen train and station operators’ training of staff in disability awareness, including involving disabled people in its delivery and requiring staff to have refresher training at least every two years. This will ensure disabled passengers, including those with non-visible disabilities, receive a better, more consistent service from all staff whether they book assistance in advance or request assistance on arrival at the station.
  • Reduce the notice period for booking assistance, currently up to 24 hours before travel. We now require operators to enable:
    • booking by 10pm the night before travel by April 2020;
    • booking a minimum of 6 hours before travel by April 2021; and
    • booking a minimum of 2 hours before travel by April 2022.
  • Improving the ability for passengers to receive redress when booked assistance fails (e.g. compensation).
  • Standardise and improve information for passengers, including provision at staffed stations of a concise, easy-to-read passenger leaflet focused on what to expect before travelling, at the station, on the train and if things do not go as planned.
  • Involve disabled people in a meaningful way in the development and review of operator policies and training, so that the view of passenger champions, local communities and user groups are considered.

ORR Guidance and related documents

Alongside the Accessible Travel Policy Guidance and the responses themselves, we have published a summary of the responses, and set out the steps we will take to ensure train and station operators, including Network Rail, deliver these improvements. We also produced this summary document in Easy Read and Large Print formats. Other accessible formats are also available on request.

We have written to the Managing Directors of the train and station operators we regulate, including Network Rail, requiring them to submit their revised policies by December 2019. We will monitor their progress in delivering their commitments.

Published on 27 July 2019:

Consultations

Over the course of 18 months we launched two different consultations to seek views on potential improvements to Assisted Travel services, and to set out proposals to change the Disabled People's Protection Policy (DPPP) Guidance for train and station operators.

Our 2018 consultation asked for views on how we could change the 2009 DPPP Guidance for train and station operators by setting out proposals to:

  • Increase the reliability of assistance for disabled passengers;
  • Improve accessible journey planning;
  • Reduce the notice period for booking assistance;
  • Ensure all train companies provide compensation to passengers if they do not receive the assistance they have booked;
  • Standardise and improve information for passengers, and
  • Strengthen train and station operators’ staff training.

The responses we received to that consultation reiterated the need for improvements to Assisted Travel, and provided a range of comments on our proposals.

Our 2017 consultation asked for views on how we could:

  • Increase passenger awareness of Assisted Travel services;
  • Improve the reliability of assistance for passengers;
  • Strengthen staff training for train operators, and
  • Improve our monitoring arrangements of Assisted Travel.

Accessible Travel Policies (ATPs)

An Accessible Travel Policy (ATP) must be established by each train and station operator. The policy must be approved by ORR and set out the operator’s commitments and standards of service provision as well as relevant policies and practices, with regard to disabled people using the rail network in a four document structure as detailed in the image below.

Read more about ORR's role in the approval of ATP's.

Stakeholder engagement

In developing our thinking we engaged extensively with all train and station operators as well as members of disabled people advocacy groups.

To help provide assurances that our work in this area was aligned across the railway industry we worked closely with our key industry stakeholders:

  • Railway Safety and Standards Board (RSSB)
  • Rail Delivery Group (RDG)
  • Rail Sector Disability Champion,
  • the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC),
  • the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS),
  • Transport Focus,
  • Network Rail,
  • the UK Department for Transport,
  • Transport Scotland
  • the Welsh Assembly Government,
  • All train and station operators, and
  • Disabled people’s organisations.

Assisted Travel Advisory Group

In advance of our 2018 consultation we also created an advisory group to support work on updates to the 2009 DPPP guidance. The advisory group comprised of disabled people’s organisations and the Disability Rail Sector Champion as well as industry bodies such as the Rail Delivery Group, Transport Focus and the Department for Transport.

The advisory group met 3 times in the summer of 2018 to discuss the key issues identified by ORR and to provide advice on our initial work and plans for further public consultation on:

  • revisions to the existing requirements as set out in the DPPP Guidance;
  • proposals for new requirements to be set out in the DPPP Guidance;
  • the format and structure of DPPPs, including any proposals for change;
  • how improvement to Assisted Travel as discussed in ORR’s recent consultation can be delivered through changes to the DPPP guidance; and
  • what further evidence, analysis or engagement may be required to inform both the development of new DPPP guidance or improvement to Assisted Travel more generally.

Terms of Reference

Assisted Travel Advisory Group - Terms of Reference

Group Members

  • Fiona Walshe: Department for Transport
  • David Mapp: Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee
  • James Taylor: Disability Charities Consortium
  • Craig O’Beirne: Rail Delivery Group
  • Stephen Brookes MBE: Rail Sector Disability Champion
  • Phil Wilks: Transport Focus
  • Chris Clark:Transport Scotland
  • Stephen Chamberlain: Welsh Assembly Government

Meeting notes