Merseyrail is in the middle of an ambitious programme to introduce level boarding across its 68-station network. Starting with a comprehensive yearlong platform upgrade project in October 2018 to standardise all platforms in the network, Merseyrail is now in the process of receiving its brand new fleet of level boarding trains.
The entire train fleet should be replaced before the end of 2021, at which point every station will feature level boarding at the platform. Coupled with the station accessibility works from street to platform, which now include 51 stations, 76% of the network will be independently accessible for passengers requiring step-free access.
Greater Anglia has introduced the first mainline trains in the UK that allow for level boarding at the national standard platform height. The trains will cover a wide range of services, from quiet rural routes to busy intercity and airport express services.
The introduction of these trains will bring level boarding, practically overnight, to stations all across the East of England. Greater Anglia has stated that up to 70% of the platforms served by these new trains will fall within the limits of level boarding, enabling independent boarding. At other platforms, manual boarding ramps will remain available for use.
The Netherlands has bold plans to ensure that its entire railway network, comprising 410 stations, is fully independently accessible to everyone by 2030. To reach this goal, the country has pursued a three-pronged approach: carry out a complete platform standardisation programme, make all stations step-free from street to platform, and ensure that all new rolling stock can provide level boarding at the national standard platform height.
The plans are well underway, with level boarding local trains already in place and both platform standardisation and step-free access works moving forward on a rolling basis.
Since passing legislation in 2007 mandating that all future rolling stock be accessible, Spain has achieved great success with bringing level boarding to its vast suburban “Cercanias” networks. The procurement of newer trains that allow for level boarding has had a tremendous impact on accessibility.
One of the more interesting developments is that existing inaccessible trains were also required to be made accessible if they were to be kept in service. To accomplish this, railway operator RENFE began a rolling adaptation programme where one train carriage is removed and replaced with an accessible one that has an accessible toilet as well as a low floor to accommodate level boarding at the standard platform height.