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05 Aug 2021

Paralympian Andy Barrow chairs new panel to improve rail journeys for everyone

Paralympian Andy Barrow chairs new panel to improve rail journeys for everyone: ATAP 05082021-024

  • Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris meets Southeastern’s new Accessible Travel Advisory Panel, led by former Paralympian Andy Barrow
  • Aim of panel is to improve the safety and comfort of everyone travelling on the Southeastern network
  • Minister sees improvements undertaken at London Bridge

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.”

Contact information

Southeastern Press Office

0330 095 9091

Notes to editors

  • More information on how Southeastern is making travel accessible is available on our website.
  • Southeastern will initially work with the panel on the development of its Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) process and the panel’s role within that assessment process to find the best way of getting their opinions and ideas to ensure that any new projects deliver improvements for people with impairments, as in time EqIA will be required for all major projects. This will include new facilities at stations or updated working procedures. The key aim is to ensure that accessibility needs are considered right at the beginning of the planning process.
  • As part of the updated Accessible Travel Policy published in February 2021, Southeastern set out how it would continue working with disabled passenger’ groups to improve access to all its services.
  • This included the creation in September 2020 of an online panel – the Southeastern Accessible Travel Reference Group. This panel is online only but enables far more disabled people to be part of it - over 350 members. It differs from this new panel in that the questions put to it are more binary – asking for ‘yes/no’ answers and so it provides more quantitative data that has been immensely useful in providing key feedback to Southeastern’s Minor Works programme, the railway response to the Covid-19 pandemic, assisted travel and more recently on new passenger information screens proposed for London Victoria station.
  • The Accessible Travel Advisory Panel provides qualitative feedback and provides an ability to discuss proposals put to them, allowing Southeastern to ask for suggestions reached through discussions at their meetings to improve the journey experience for disabled people on Southeastern, something which isn’t possible with an online-only panel. Working with senior members of our organisation the panel, comprised of 15 members from diverse backgrounds and experiences, will review, feedback, and help to support best practice. The panel members will help Southeastern to represent the needs of all passengers, including:
  • People with visual/hearing impairments
  • People travelling with young children
  • Older people requiring assistance when travelling
  • People with non-visible impairments
  • People with physical impairments
  • More information about the Department for Transport’s contribution to the National Disability Strategy is available on its website.


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