The guard is there for everyone’s protection; recent incidents can only remind us of this. Access to rail services for disabled passengers relies on an adequate number of well-trained staff and accessible facilities.
Environmental barriers, service provider policies and attitudes lead to our isolation and exclusion from work, education, volunteering and involvement in our communities. Guards have months of training and 35 different safety-crucial competencies. Yet the government is encouraging the extension of Driver Only Operation (DOO), and in many cases guards will be replaced by less-trained staff or not at all.
Southern have introduced an On Board Supervisor (OBS) with just two days very basic training. Southern has announced 33 stations where disabled passengers can no longer arrive on the same turn-up-and-go basis that non-disabled travellers enjoy. There will be no second member of staff and disabled people requiring assistance to board/exit the train face abolition of the right to ride.
Private companies are creating longer trains with up to 12 carriages with the impossibility of drivers seeing anyone trying to board at the back of curved platforms. Lack of maintenance staff leads to the break-down of lifts, lack of toilets, help-points which don’t work, etc. The two minutes allowed at many stations for all passengers to board/exit trains discriminates against many disabled people and puts staff under intolerable pressure.
Momentum Disabled Caucus have been campaigning to “Make Rail Accessible”. We joined Transport for All in London on 5 April to march to London Bridge Station demanding our Right to Ride.