At the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into the proposed ticket office closures last week (13 July), our Campaigns Manager Katie Pennick told MPs that there was little faith in the consultation process among the disabled community. She also gave a scathing review of the Equality and Impact Assessments published by train operators, calling them “copy and paste jobs” with “misleading statements”
The public consultation on proposals to close up to 1000 railway ticket offices across England is “rendered useless” by inaccessible documents and inadequate Equality and Impact Assessments (EQIAs), Transport for All has told MPs.
Speaking to the Commons transport select committee last week (Wednesday 13 July), our Campaigns and Communications Manager Katie Pennick described the EQIAs as “copy and paste jobs”, saying that some of the suggested mitigations put forward by train operating companies were “frankly insulting”.
Katie referred to the EQIA published by East Midlands Railway, who identified a potential impact of blind and visually impaired passengers being unable to use TVMs (ticket vending machines) and suggested a solution was to “work with local sight loss charities and hold information sessions that will support customers learning how to use a TVM.” Another example Katie referred to was c2c, who wrote that they are “happy to spend time showing customers how machines work”. Katie condemned this approach, telling MPs “the suggestion that it is simply a lack of knowledge that prevents blind people operating touchscreens is, frankly, insulting.”
Katie pointed out that the Department has still failed to publish its programme-wide assessment of the proposals, having rejected our Freedom of Information request earlier this month while claiming that “Ministers and officials need a safe space away from public scrutiny to formulate and develop the policy.” This assessment, Katie argued, should have been made available to the public to ensure that disabled people would be properly informed while responding to the consultation.
Referring to a letter sent by the Rail Minister to the transport committee, in which it was claimed that all train operators had published their EQIAs on their websites and that they had all taken “considerable steps” to provide materials in accessible formats, Katie called attention to the way in which disabled campaigners have had to fight for basic rights. “In actual fact, operators did not initially provide accessible formats or publish EQIAs, and it wasn’t until several operators were under the threat of legal action from disabled campaigners that these were made available”, she said.
In a later session, chief executives representing three train operators as well as a senior figure from the Rail Delivery Group told MPs their plans to close ticket offices would bring rail staff “out from behind the glass” into new multi-skilled roles that would in fact increase accessibility.
But Katie refuted this point: “The idea that staff currently being behind the glass is a problem that needs to be fixed is not the case at all; it’s actually one of the most important accessibility features of a ticket office.
“It’s a designated place where disabled people can go and be assured that they will find assistance from that place.”
Without that designated location, she said, disabled people would have to go “traipsing round a station” trying to locate a member of staff and request assistance.
Katie also criticised the idea of ‘mobile teams’, saying: “It’s completely ludicrous to suggest that disabled people should turn up at a station, use the help point (if they can use the help point) and then wait up to an hour for a mobile team to come out to meet them.”
“Disabled people have the right to Turn Up and Go, we have the right to travel spontaneously.”
️ “the suggestion that it is simply a lack of knowledge that is a barrier to using ticket machines is, frankly, insulting.”
Our Campaigns Manager gave a scathing review of the Impact Assessments published by train operators at the Transport Committee inquiry yesterday. pic.twitter.com/NZ1nXXlTXR
— Transport for All (@TransportForAll) September 14, 2023