UK Rail Minister writes to RDG about accessibility during COVID-19

Posted: 9 April 2020 | | No comments yet

The open letter from the UK Rail Minister to the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) addresses recent incidents at UK rail stations where individual passengers were apparently refused accessibility assistance.

UK Rail Minister open letter

Credit: Network Rail

The UK’s Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, has written an open letter to the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) asking the industry to continue to ensure that rail travel is accessible during the coronavirus outbreak.

Opening the letter by thanking the UK rail industry for working to ensure the continued operation of the railways despite the COVID-19 pandemic currently impacting the country, Chris emphasised the vital role that the sector plays in transporting key workers – in particular, NHS staff who are ‘on the frontline of tackling the virus’ – and highlighted that accessibility should remain a key priority for the rail network in order to ensure that travel continued to be as smooth as possible for all.

The letter outlined: “It is critical that people who need to do so are able to travel to work in a safe and reliable manner during this challenging time for the country. I am writing to ask specifically that the industry continues to ensure the needs of disabled people are met during this time. Rail must, irrespective of the circumstances, always be accessible for all.”

Chris continued, writing: “Working with operators, we have strengthened our commitment to a more accessible railway in recent months, including announcing 124 stations to benefit from a share of £20 million for mid-tier improvements, part of our £300 million Access for All programme, and the launch of ‘It’s Everyone’s Journey‘, ensuring those with non-visible disabilities have a safe, accessible network.”

Chris then emphasised his main concern: “Since the government issued advice for people to avoid travel unless necessary, I have been concerned to hear from disability campaigners about a few incidents at rail stations where individual passengers were apparently refused assistance. I feel strongly that social distancing measures should not limit access in this way and would request that staff have access to clear guidance to ensure they can support all passengers using our railways. I would like to thank you for your assurances that RDG has updated its guidance for operators, so rail workers can remain safe without building barriers to travel for disabled key workers.”

Chris then concluded the letter, stating that the Department for Transport (DfT) is set to work closely with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to investigate any reports made outlining instances of failure to provide accessibility assistance to disabled people during the COVID-19 outbreak.