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Disabled rail passengers protest over the role of guards on trains

Added: 27 April 2018 | Updated: 16 May 2018

In April as part of our Rail Access Now campaign, Transport for All joined the local campaigning group Save Access at Brentford Station to protest against South Western Railway’s plans to end the requirement to have a guard on all their trains. Such a decision would seriously reduce accessibility at many stations across London, like Brentford station.

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Protest at Brentford station

The day of action started with a protest at Brentford Station, where around forty local Disabled and older people gathered together to say NO to South Western ‘s plan to get rid of their “no guard on board, no train” policy. We were joined by local MP Ruth Cadbury and Councillors Corinna Smart, Guy Lambert and Mel Collins.

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South Western Railway insists that they have no plans to remove guards from trains and will roster one on every single service. But the fact that they open the door to the possibility of running a train without a guard (even in exceptional circumstances) is bad news for Disabled and older people.

Brentford station is unstaffed, so the guard is the only person who can help with the ramp. The guard currently gets out of the train, unlocks the ramp located on the platform, or gets the one from inside the train and positions it for wheelchair access. The decision by South Western Railways will, therefore, make Brentford station – one of the few step-free stations in West London – inaccessible on many occasions; leaving wheelchair and mobility scooter users stranded on the platform or on the train.

For many, this will add uncertainty to journeys visiting the Southbank with all it has to offer, or getting to work, and will mean an end to our right to turn-up-and-go like everyone else.

Sian Vasey who led the local campaign explained: “You will arrive here. There won’t be a guard. You will be disarmed. And you won’t be able to go anywhere. It will be Turn-Up-and-DON’T-Go.”

Don’t axe Turn-Up-And-Go assistance

The decision will affect not only Brentford but also many other stations across London. This is why we then travelled up to Waterloo station for a second protest. Many other campaigners affected by South Western Railway’s decision joined us. With support from a carnival band, we distributed hundreds of leaflets to show commuters the reality we face. Save Access at Brentford Station also circulated a petition, which received hundreds of signatures.

South Western Railway think s that it is better to run a train without a second member of staff than to cancel it. But as Labour MP Ruth Cadbury said to ITVThey shouldn’t be running train s without a second member of staff. They have been doing it for years. Why should they change now? ”

The message to South Western Railway is : do not axe access at Brentford station.
  • We want Turn-Up-And-Go assistance guaranteed
  • We want the presence of guards on board the trains to be guaranteed
  • We want staff at unmanned stations
A spokesperson from South Western Trains said “we want our railway to be as accessible as possible and we have a number of commitments within our franchise to help improve this. As well as continuing to work with accessibility groups on our network, we have appointed a dedicated Accessibility Manager to ensure customers who require extra assistance have a strong voice within our company“.

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