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Time for ‘turn up and go’ assistance at London rail stations

The introduction of ‘turn up and go’ assistance at London train stations could be moving a step closer. Transport for All have written to the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) to urge them to listen to the views of older and disabled passenger and introduce ‘turn up and go’ assistance at rail stations in London. ATOC recently commissioned a survey into stations where disabled people do not pre-book their journeys as recommended.

As the organisation of London’s older and disabled transport users, we feel it should be a right for disabled rail users to ‘turn up and go’ at all staffed stations and that it is unacceptable that we are told to book journeys 24 hours in advance. With London Overground introducing ‘turn up and go’, rail is now the only form of public transport in London without this policy.

Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, Paralympian gold medallist and TfL Board member has said:

“The entire London Overground network is “turn up and go”. I would urge other rail companies to follow suit.”

Having to book 24 hours in advance limits disabled travellers’ freedom to be spontaneous and diminishes our sense of independence. The possibility to make last minute journey plans is something that should be open to everyone, regardless of ability. In London, very few people know exactly what train they will be on. We might need to stay and finish off something at work; we might go out a drink with friends and ‘a drink’ turns into two; we might have our bus or Tube journey delayed. And many disabled people already use the rail system without booking assistance.

After several years of pressing for turn-up-and-go assistance, we hope this survey is a signal that rail operators are serious about introducing ‘turn up and go’

The current Passenger Assistance Service used by rail operators is disliked by many older and disabled passengers. In fact, many refuse to pre-book assistance and are still able to make their journey when they turn up unannounced at a station. We believe the results of this survey will show the feasibility of implementing ‘turn up and go’

Luke Baily, Transport for All volunteer and rail user said:

‘’I find booking in advance to be a real frustration. To give an example, I used the train to go from Richmond to Reading to visit a friend for the evening. I had to say when I would return to Richmond. I didn’t know how long I wanted to spend out, so in the end I had to leave my friend earlier than I wanted.’’

As Amy Oulton observes in her blogpost ‘Spontaneous Wheelchair Users Not Welcome”, it really shouldn’t take that longfor staff to make a phone call to the destination station and ask for a ramp to be ready; or a member of staff to be ready to guide a visually impaired passenger. Come on train companies, how hard can it be?!

Rica – an independent national research charity commissioned by ATOC – surveyed disabled people who had received assistance at certain London stations without booking it in advance. The survey ran from June to late August and has now closed. The research aimed to help ATOC evaluate whether these stations would be able to operate a ‘turn up and go’ service in future.