Rise in number of disabled passengers on railways

A record number of people with disabilities are using the railways, figures from the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) suggest.

Atoc said the number of journeys made by passengers with a Disabled Person’s Railcard had more than trebled in the past 15 years to 3.5 million a year.

It claimed the rise could be attributed to the discount card and improvements made by train companies.

But campaign groups said more needed to be done to help disabled travellers.

The Disabled Person’s Card – held by 130,000 people in the UK – reduces the price of most tickets by a third.

Atoc said there had been “significant improvements in facilities and services” on trains and at stations.

They included interactive maps of all 2,500 stations in the UK; passengers being able to book assistance if they bought tickets and reserved seats in advance; and improvements to trains, such as removing slamming doors.

David Sindall, Atoc’s head of disability and inclusion, said: “Accessible public transport plays a key role in allowing disabled people to lead an independent life, so it’s good news that more and more people are taking advantage of the railcard.”

He said “huge progress” had been made in improving rail services for disabled people over the past 30 years but added that train companies were “committed to responding to passengers’ needs and will continue to work closely with disability charities and support groups to improve services even further”.

Charity Leonard Cheshire Disability said “simple and inexpensive changes” could be made, such as working more with disabled people, to ensure more people could travel by train.

“This would not only open up the customer base, but also help to create UK train services that everyone can use,” the charity said.

The charity’s Hannah Hollingworth said: “We hear stories from disabled people of being stepped over in train carriages, trapped in toilets, and having to wait a long time for assistance.”

Campaign group Passenger Focus carried out research into support for disabled passengers, particularly looking at help in reserving seats.

Director David Sidebottom said they found a “mixed bag of service for passengers needing assistance” and more needed to be done to improve the system.

“We found there had been some improvements between 2008 and 2010 but there was still inconsistencies in delivering the service.”

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