The Campaign for Level Boarding today issued an open letter to Greater Anglia commending the introduction of partial level boarding on it’s network, but urging the company to take action to improve communication and information at stations where level boarding is not available.
Text of the letter as follows:
Dear Mr Jamie Burles,
We at the Campaign for Level Boarding are an independent group committed to advocating for a railway where all passengers are able to access services without the need for pre-booking or assistance from railway staff. Our particular focus is the provision of a platform-train interface that enables all passengers to board and alight from trains independently. We are fully aware that initiatives consistent with this objective have been delivered on the mainline railway in many countries outside of the UK.
In this country, our vision has been realised on all of the rail-based systems that have been constructed since the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act in the 1990s, particularly the UK’s tram and metro systems. The long-standing status quo of tolerating a significant step between the train and the platform on the mainline railway is being challenged and in some locations being changed.
Greater Anglia is at the forefront of this shift, with your introduction of lower floors and sliding steps at passenger doors in the new Class 745/755 rolling stock built by Stadler Rail, which is tailored to match the UK’s standard platform dimensions. We greatly welcome this initiative and fully endorse the potential benefits offered by these new trains. This technology has enabled unassisted access to be provided at some stations, which we wholeheartedly support.
However, we are mindful that this improvement is not available at all platforms served by the new Stadler fleet. This is causing uncertainty for passengers, particularly those who require step-free access. We believe that this situation could be addressed with a two-stage approach:
1. In the short term, provision of information to allow wheelchair users to easily understand which platforms will allow unassisted access. The criterion to be applied is set out in the European Standard for Interoperability for Persons of Reduced Mobility (PRM-TSI). This identifies a maximum horizontal gap between the vehicle threshold and the nose of the platform of 75mm and a vertical gap of 50mm. We are aware that this same criterion applies to tramways in the UK and are set out in the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (RVAR).
2. We understand that no modifications have been made to platform heights or offsets on the Greater Anglia network in preparation for the introduction of the new Stadler trains. In the medium term, we believe that a programme of infrastructure modifications should be undertaken to provide a consistent platform-train interface which complies within the criteria in PRM-TSI.
We are aware that an infrastructure modification programme of this type has been undertaken across the Merseyrail network in advance of the introduction of the new Class 777 fleet later this year. We understand that the approach in Merseyrail has been to apply Network Rail’s standard height (nominal 915mm) and offset (730mm) to their entire network. This led to Network Rail undertaking an extensive modification programme over the entire length of all their platforms, which we understand has now been completed.
We believe that a similar approach should be adopted on Greater Anglia, thereby releasing the full potential of your new Stadler fleet. The benefits of this approach would be enormous:
Accessibility for all: Achieving full level boarding along Greater Anglia’s Stadler routes would benefit everyone, including older people, people with reduced mobility, and passengers with luggage, bikes, and pushchairs, allowing them to travel with confidence and independence.
Safety: This approach would significantly reduce the risk of accidents at the platform-train interface, which remains the highest area of risk to passengers and has been an area of great concern to the industry over recent years.
Operational efficiency: Independent boarding and the avoidance of failed passenger assistance would greatly help speed up boarding and reduce dwell times.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to share information about our campaign and help you to explore how to meet the needs of all of your users, ensuring that disabled people in particular are able to have the best possible experience of your new rolling stock. Greater Anglia has already challenged the status quo with its Stadler fleet, and it would be a significant disappointment if inadequate communication and unclear processes in stations without level boarding clouded what should be a celebration of the improved access that has been achieved. We would like to work with you to address these issues and highlight what can be achieved with level boarding.
The Members of the Campaign for Level Boarding:
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE
Dr Jon Rey-Hastie
Dr Hannah Barham-Brown
Sue Groves MBE
The Campaign for Level Boarding is completely independent and receives no funding from third parties. DMD Pathfinders provides a secretariat to the campaign.