Majority of rail carriages still not fully accessible, government admits


newslatestMore than half of rail carriages are still not fully accessible to disabled people, according to a new government report.

The Department for Transport (DfT) report – which mostly relates just to England – updates progress on its accessibility action plan, which was published in December 2012.

It comes three months after MPs on the transport select committee warned that access to transport for disabled people was “unacceptably poor” and that improvements planned by the government were being “watered down or abandoned”.

During the last year, according to the progress report, the number of rail carriages – both new and refurbished – that are “fully accessible” has increased by about 200 to more than 7,800 (about 46 per cent).

All rail carriages have to be fully accessible – according to government regulations that apply to England, Scotland and Wales – by 1 January 2020.

The report also details progress towards making rail stations accessible, through the Access for All programme originally introduced in 2006 under the last Labour government.

It says that more than 150 stations will have an accessible route for passengers by 2015, while more than 1,100 stations have received smaller scale access improvements.

The government announced another £100 million of funding in July 2012 as part of an extension of the programme from 2015 to 2019.

The progress report says that 277 stations have been nominated for this extra funding, with the successful bidders due to be announced in April.

It also says that only just over three-quarters of buses (78 per cent) meet government accessibility regulations, even though all buses must comply by 1 January 2017.

Among the recommendations made by the transport select committee was that ministers should ensure the phased introduction of audio-visual information systems on all buses over the next 10 years.

But the progress report says that installing audio-visual technology on all new buses could cost nearly £10 million per year and despite the “social benefits of having such systems on buses” it is “unwilling to impose financial burdens on the industry in the current financial climate and we therefore have no plans to make these systems mandatory at this time”.

The report also reveals that, as of March 2013, an estimated 58 per cent of the 78,000 taxis in England and Wales were wheelchair accessible, although in London this was 100 per cent.

2 January 2014