Labour has been praised by accessible transport campaigners for pledging to ban the practice of running train services without an on-board member of staff who can assist disabled passengers.
The party promises in its manifesto – as part of its policy of gradually bringing the railway back into public ownership – to “end driver-only operation” of trains, where the driver has responsibility for opening and closing the doors, and instead will guarantee a guard on every train.
Transport for All (TfA), the user-led charity which campaigns on accessible transport in London, welcomed the pledge and said it was “a step in the right direction”.
Kirsty Hoyle, TfA’s chief executive, said: “We have spoken directly with the team who have developed this policy and are proud to see how closely it responds to the years of campaigning we have been doing in this area.
“Our sustained campaigning for a Turn Up and Go system on the rail network, reflecting the London Underground model, has kept this high on the agenda and we are pleased to see a commitment to access in such a tangible and effective way.”
But she warned this would be “only one step in the progress needed to reduce the barriers for disabled people”, and she called for compulsory disability equality training for all rail staff, increased investment in step-free access and “a commitment to level boarding across the UK”.
She added: “Disabled passengers are regularly left on trains or given incorrect assistance, putting their safety at risk.
“This proposed service will give disabled passengers, indeed all passengers, the confidence to travel independently knowing that support is available on board, increasing their well-being and supporting the development of a safer, fairer travelling experience.”
Earlier this year, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) wrote to Conservative transport ministers to warn of the “toxic” impact on disabled people of running driver-only trains through unstaffed stations.
DPTAC warned in the letter that the “availability of staff to provide assistance is crucial to the ability of many disabled passengers (and indeed older passengers more generally) to make rail journeys”.
It also warned DfT that it should take legal advice on whether forcing disabled passengers to travel on driver-only operated trains to unstaffed stations would breach the Equality Act and other laws and regulations.
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