Disability Charity BuDS slams Chiltern Rail for "excluding disabled people" from travel
Campaigners from Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS) have been left furious after the Government granted special dispensation for Chiltern Railways to continue to operate rail carriages that don't meet basic standards of disabled accessibility.
Under legislation announced in 2011, all rail operators have to provide disabled access across all of their trains by December 31 2020.
However Chiltern Railways have been granted an exemption today, despite having 9 years to correct any current stock which does not fit the bill.
The operator will have to report to the Secretary of State on progress to replace the vehicles every 28 consecutive days from 1 January 2020 until the 'special dispensation' expires.
The rail company said that it's only a small number of carriages and they will be looking to implement changes as soon as possible.
However Buds campaigners are furious with the lack of action from Chiltern.
We spoke to Andrew Clark Chair of Trustees at BuDs who said:
"Chiltern Railways have had nearly nine years to rectify these issues since the 2011 rail Interoperability legislation came in.
"The issue lies in so many of Britain's railways using ancient rolling stock, which is not suitable for disabled access.
"They've had nine years to sort this, so why are we still waiting?
"We've got the irony where this government is telling disabled people to get out and work, but companies not being forced to implement changes that would allow disabled people to travel or commute.
"Chiltern Railways is owned by a multi million pound company. Why aren't they being penalised for this? It sends out an awful message.
"Yes, 26 years after the Disability Discrimination Act, our railways here in Buckinghamshire don’t allow disabled people to travel independently.
"Why are we still waiting? It's unacceptable. You're excluding disabled people from being able to travel to work and to live their lives.
"How can disabled people work and live a normal life if they are excluded from public transport.
"It's so disappointing in the second decade of the 21st century.
"It is shocking and unacceptable that Chiltern Railways has been given permission by the Government to continue to use railway carriages that do not meet even basic levels of disabled accessibility.
"The charity is calling on Chiltern Railways to replace these carriages immediately."
Heather Joy-Garrett, who leads the Accessible Everywhere project for BuDS, said: “It is shocking and unacceptable that Chiltern Railways has been given this permission to effectively exclude disabled people from being able to travel.
"The 2011 target which has now been missed did not make railways accessible, it just reduced their inaccessibility. Portable ramps, for example, are still needed for wheelchair users to access trains even under the 2011 standard.
"It is appalling that even basic levels of accessibility are not being enforced on the multi-million-pound international companies who run our railways”.
Chiltern Railways said it was an 'isolated number of carriages' and issued the following statement in response.
A spokesperson said:
“It’s very important to us at Chiltern Railways that everyone is able to access our services.
"We have recently significantly invested in our rolling stock to ensure they are compliant including installing accessible toilets, customer information screens and accessible seating.
"Just 7 of our 213 carriages have not undergone accessibility modifications, these will be replaced to achieve a level of compliance which we have agreed with the Department for Transport by June 2020.
"These carriages represent just two daily services and there are accessible services scheduled very close to these departures to ensure everyone can use our trains.”