Southern Rail’s Equality of Access Crisis – Ann Bates OBE speaks out (Part Two)

After campaigning for months on the crisis of Equality of Access on Southern Rail, ABC believes that this issue can be ignored no longer. Extensive work is underway with witnesses who have experienced the failings of Southern Rail’s system, and we are soon to take the government to court in a precedent-setting case for disability access. Today, in Part Two of our blog series, we bring you the expert analysis of former DfT and Govia advisor Ann Bates, who was granted an OBE for her contributions to the field.

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Statement from Ann Bates, OBE:

“I was Chair of the Rail Group at the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (at the Department for Transport) for nine years and have worked with government, train companies, statutory agencies and other parties to ensure the full accessibility of the rail network for all passengers with the whole range of disabilities – not just wheelchair users, most of whom rely on staffing either on the train or the station for assistance.

The parties involved in the present dispute have not provided any robust solution to the ‘unstaffed train calling at an unstaffed station’ problem.  Various solutions have been proposed, all of which depend on a slick communication level that has been proven absent throughout the dispute, or negative experiences offered such as long distance taxi rides (mostly not available on the coast and many unable to fit a larger wheelchair inside), waiting on an unstaffed platform in all weathers trying to use an information point (impossible with a hearing loss), or being forced to change at another station to ‘await a staffed service’.

None of these options meet the test of ‘reasonableness’ required by the law as we will be delayed (sometimes by hours) and treated far worse than other passengers who can take trains straight through to their destination.

I have campaigned for the ‘level playing field’ concept where we get no positive discrimination, but the current plans will leave me in a more uncomfortable, more uncertain and more delayed situation than I was in travelling in the guards van all those years ago. Twenty years ago I was in the guards van, now I’m not even on the train!”

 

For Part One of our series on Equality of Access, click here.

If you have been affected by access failures on Southern Rail, please write to us at contact@associationofbritishcommuters.com

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