New safeguarding measures to improve the reliability of passenger requests for assistance.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said the new rules in its Accessible Travel Policy Guidance for Train and Station Operators (published last week) should help prevent failures among more than a million requests a year and drive up the reliability of the service.

Under the new rules, which are now in force for all train and station operating companies following a successful trial, operators must now have:

  • a dedicated assistance telephone number for every station;
  • a ‘Responsible Person’ for every station who will ensure calls to those numbers are answered and;
  • a Handover Protocol to ensure that when those calls are answered, the essential information needed to co-ordinate the assistance delivery is provided.

ORR deputy director, consumers Stephanie Tobyn said: ‘ORR wants all passengers that require assistance to travel safely with confidence and ease. That is our expectation, irrespective of whether a passenger books assistance in advance of their journey or wishes to travel spontaneously and request assistance at the station.

‘Where the promised assistance fails it is extremely stressful for passengers. These changes will ensure that passengers can have more confidence in train and station operators’ capacity to better coordinate and provide assistance reliably.’

James Taylor, executive director of Scope, said: ‘It’s great to see that the rail industry is taking steps to improve service provision for some disabled people. Improving the reliability of assistance provision and communications between stations has the potential to dramatically improve passenger experience.’

The ORR said the new requirements are the result of extensive research and consultation with industry into the primary causes of passenger assistance failures.

‘This found that too often train and station operators were relying on informal and inconsistent processes to communicate and coordinate assistance between the passenger’s boarding and alighting stations. These information failures all too frequently ended with assistance staff not being in the right place at the right time to deliver the alighting assistance.’