CER and EDF join forces to enhance accessibility of rail for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility
Posted: 9 October 2012 | | No comments yet
Access conditions for persons with reduced mobility need to be further improved…
Access conditions for persons with reduced mobility to transport as a whole need to be further improved while securing a sustainable business environment for the rail sector. This was the main message of a conference organized today by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), and co-moderated by the European Disability Forum (EDF), on the accessibility of rail transport for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility. CER and EDF called upon stakeholders to strengthen their cooperation focusing all means and resources to help reaching the objectives.
CER shares the aspiration of EDF and the European Commission to deliver a rail network that can be used by all passengers, including disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility. CER published last June the railways’ proposal how to achieve this objective. The CER vision supports enhanced cooperation between all stakeholders at European and national level, from the exchange of best practices to the definition of concrete tools.
As explained by Sian Prout, Head of Unit Single European Rail Area, European Commission, Directorate General Mobility and Transport, the future of the rail sector’s accessibility is currently driven by the revision of the Technical Specifications for Interoperability/Persons with Reduced Mobility (TSI PRM). CER and EDF responded by calling for national accessibility plans that should involve all stakeholders, including ‘Disabled People Organisations’, and will contain deadlines associated with milestones and appropriate public financing to enable achieving an equipment compliance with the TSI PRM. To that aim, CER and EDF invited the European Commission, the European Parliament and the member states to coordinate their actions and to put in place the necessary resources that will boost the accessibility of the railway system while not hindering its economic viability.
Improving access conditions to all users is not new to the European railways. Representing the British Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), David Sindall explained that the European rail sector agreed in 2009 on uniform access conditions for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility. This first successful cooperation in the area of accessibility encouraged railways to continue working together, leading in 2010 to the launch of a common PRM assistance booking tool. Today, the European railways exchange best practices on a regular basis with EDF.
Along with strengthening their cooperation, rail companies are also working with their national councils of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility to improve the provision of assistance, thereby allowing fulfilling the requirements of the European regulation on rail passenger rights 1371/2007. This work has shown that putting in place assistance services has a great immediate benefit, responding to the specific needs of the local population.
Accessibility is about making life of all passengers easier; the user’s experience is essential. Speaking on behalf of EDF, Bruno Gaurier, of the French Council of Disabled People for European Affairs, highlighted the progress and the remaining issues experienced by passengers with disabilities, for instance the accessibility and availability of procedures to request assistance, which is still essential for many persons with disabilities to embark/disembark trains.
Concluding the event, CER and EDF reaffirmed the common objective that the whole transport sector should be made accessible to all passengers, including disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility, as it represents a growing need from the passengers’ side and a potential market opportunity for the transport sector. In this respect, CER and EDF look forward to the upcoming publication of the European Accessibility Act, which could establish level playing field between transport modes as regards accessibility requirements for transport infrastructure and vehicles.
Bruno Gaurier, Political Counselor, French Council of Disabled People for European Affairs, representing EDF, said: “We are glad about this opportunity to express common views with the rail sector. There is still a lot of work ahead of us to improve the mobility of persons with disabilities and the rail sector has a key role to play there. It is through increased cooperation that we will manage to go towards an inclusive railway transport service that satisfies the needs of all passengers, including disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility.”
Libor Lochman, CER Executive Director, said: “This event is a very positive sign of our constructive approach to the accessibility. The outcome we have achieved in consent with EDF is a very good way forward. Putting all our resources together will not only help to improving the accessibility of our trains and stations, but also to implementing the rights of all passengers. This is also the conclusion of a report CER and CIT have just published on the implementation of the rail passenger rights regulation 1371/2007.”