The first meeting of a panel set up to improve the accessibility of rail journeys for everyone on the Southeastern network took place today, Thursday 5 August.
Chaired by former Paralympian and Access Consultant, Andy Barrow, the Accessible Travel Advisory Panel (ATAP) is made up of 15 members with a lived experience of accessibility issues.
Andy was joined on his journey into central London on a Southeastern train by the Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, whose remit includes the accessibility of the railway, and David Wornham, from Southeastern.
Both Andy and the Minister then took part in a lively discussion on how best to boost access to the rail network for disabled passengers - part of the first session of the ATAP.
Following the recent announcement of a national strategy to boost accessibility, remove barriers and improve confidence of disabled travellers, the minister was keen to hear the views of Southeastern’s panel members ahead of their first session, which took place next to London Bridge station.
Accessible Travel Advisory Panel Chair, Andy Barrow said:
“I’m passionate about people with any kind of impairment having full parity when using the rail network. I’ve been working closely with Southeastern to help their staff empathise with the day to day challenges that people can experience when travelling by train.
“Southeastern is making strides in how it responds to the needs of people with different access needs, but recognises that there’s more to do, and so when our findings are acted upon, the changes made will have a lasting and meaningful impact.”
Accessibility Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris said:
“I was delighted to attend Southeastern’s panel today and hear from such a wide variety of people with lived experience of accessibility issues.
“It’s vital that we continue to have these discussions as we make critical accessibility improvements across our transport network”.
Southeastern Passenger Services Director, David Wornham said:
“At Southeastern, our aim is to involve disabled people at an early stage of decision-making, and this panel is part of our ongoing commitment to make stations and trains across the network open to all.
“The panel will provide teams across Southeastern with informed opinions and guidance on upcoming projects as the members share their lived experiences, highlighting potential improvements or issues that may not otherwise have been considered.”
Lucy McAuliffe, Network Rail Southern region Stations Director, said:
“Making our stations open and accessible for all users is my priority. The introduction of SignLive, a sign language interpretation services for deaf passengers, RoomMate an audio guide in our accessible toilets for visually-impaired passengers, and the new Changing Places facility, an adapted bathroom for physically disabled passengers, underscores our commitment to making London Bridge station accessible to all. We still have more work to do, but working with our colleagues at Southeastern we know we can continue to make a huge difference to our passengers’ journeys.”