A rail union and disability campaigners have slammed the operator of the country’s largest rail franchise for telling platform staff not to help disabled people onto a train if it risks delaying it.
In a leaflet on managing station dwell times to coincide with the introduction of major timetable changes, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) advises staff : ‘DO NOT attempt to place PRM [Persons of Reduced Mobility] on train if there is a possibility of delaying the service.’
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘I cannot believe in this day and age we are telling staff to ignore the needs of disabled people if the time it will take to deploy a ramp and assist them onto the train will cause a delay.
‘They are introducing a policy which effectively means disabled people will not be assisted onto the train and allowed to travel. This is outrageous and flies in the face of their Disabled Peoples Protection Policy which requires them to ensure assistance is available.’
Sue Bott, deputy CEO of Disability Rights UK, said: ‘Oh dear we disabled people really are an inconvenience turning up to stations and expecting to get on a train. How unreasonable of us is that? Well not actually.
‘We have the same rights as any other passenger to be able to travel on trains and be treated with dignity.’
A GTR spokesperson pointed out that the leaflet advises staff on a number or aspects of meeting and helping disabled people, including assisting them to board the train.
He said: ‘We place a high priority on making our services accessible to all and actively encourage people with restricted mobility to use our trains. Our policy remains the same, which is to offer assistance to all passengers to help them with their journeys.’
However, he added: ‘We have a responsibility to make sure each service leaves on time to avoid knock-on delays, skipped station stops and cancellations to other services which would affect thousands of other passengers, many of whom may also be disabled.’