Accessibility must improve, say passengers
Accessibility for passengers with limited mobility must improve in the next Great Western franchise, say passengers and stakeholders in their responses to the Great Western franchise consultation. They pointed out that just over half of Great Western Railway (GWR) stations have ‘adequate’ step-free access to platforms, and concerns were also expressed about Driver Only Operation at unstaffed stations. A need for greater staff training was also highlighted.
The DfT says it is considering replacing the Minor Works Budget in the current franchise with an ‘appropriately sized’ Accessibility Improvement Fund. This could be used to fund a wider range of accessibility improvements than at present, and FirstGroup is tasked with explaining how it will improve accessibility, measure the quality of service to disabled passengers, involve them in taking decisions on matters which affect them and demonstrate how it will provide better training to staff.
Accessibility also featured heavily in responses to future station improvement, as did an emphasis on the need for better basic facilities to be provided at smaller stations, more ticket facilities at smaller stations, the need for station staff and a desire to see unused station buildings made available for public and community use.
The DfT says it “sees merit” in a more flexible approach to improvements which allows decisions to be taken within the franchise on station upgrades. It says a station improvement fund could help to achieve this but that suitable governance would be needed to ensure investment was spread across the franchise area and is targeted on the schemes which best support the franchise objectives.