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Rail bosses vow to consult disabled passengers after ‘distress’

Railway news

Rail chiefs have promised to consult disabled passengers and groups in future after they failed to do so during refurbishment work at Manchester Victoria station.

Wheelchair users had to drag themselves up steps to access the station or use a stair-climber when lifts were being replaced in September 2019.

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Network Rail failed to complete a disability impact assessment and consult with disabled passengers or groups to determine whether arrangements to replace the lifts were appropriate, said the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

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The firm’s North West route has now entered a legally binding agreement to prevent discrimination against disabled people.

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director, said: “Lack of available lift engineers led to us closing all three lifts at the same time during this work. This was the wrong thing to do and we are deeply sorry for the distress and inconvenience this caused mobility-assisted passengers.

“We’ve learnt from this and have worked collaboratively with the EHRC to put plans in place to consult with mobility-assisted passengers in advance of any future accessibility improvements at North West stations.”

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Alastair Pringle, EHRC executive director, said: “For many people, public transport can be your gateway to the world. It may well be how you get to school or work.

“It may be how you go to hospital or how you visit friends and family. This is why transport operators have clear responsibilities in law to ensure travel is just as possible for disabled people as for everyone else.

“When that doesn’t happen, the impact on disabled people can be disastrous. By signing this agreement, Network Rail has committed to improve its efforts to protect disabled people from discrimination when carrying out improvement works in stations, and we hope it prevents anyone experiencing the upsetting scenes at Manchester Victoria.

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“As we emerge from lockdown, as we see further measures put in place to support social distancing, we need to ensure that the idea of equal access to travel is at the heart of planning for all public transport providers. We must ensure that no one gets left behind.”

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Sam Hewitt