The tragic and avoidable death of Cleveland Gervais, a 53-year-old visually impaired man who was hit by a train after falling onto the tracks, was horrifying and has laid bare the appalling lack of consideration given to the safety of blind and visually impaired passengers.
A recent report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) determined it was likely he fell because he wasn’t aware that he was close to the edge. There is no tactile signage at the edge of the platforms at Eden Park – the station in question.
Eden Park is far from unique: around half of all mainline stations in the UK are also not fully equipped with this crucial safety feature. This is inexcusable.
Visually impaired people account for between 9 and 15 percent of all people who fall onto tracks from station platforms, RAIB statistics show, a stark figure considering that just 3% of the UK’s population are living with sight loss.
The report describes how obligations governing accessibility and safety stem from different legislation and have different thresholds for what is considered reasonable, and that furthermore, the installation of tactile surfaces in pre-existing stations is governed by a complex and interrelated series of obligations from different bodies (DfT, ORR, RSSB, Network Rail and Southeastern Railway).
The combined effect of this convoluted web of guidance meant that tactile signage was not effectively considered. This, tragically, is the consequence when accessibility is not viewed as an integral and fundamental part of infrastructure.
We support wholeheartedly the calls for a plan for full tactile paving installation across the network. However, we believe point five, a recommendation to “properly understand and manage the safety risks associated with disabled people travelling on the UK railway” misses the point: the danger arises when the barriers and inaccessible rail infrastructure pose a risk to disabled people, not the other way round.
It should not take a fatal incident for providers to finally take notice. These measures should have always been in place. We must design, build, and maintain our transport infrastructure with *everyone’s* safety in mind.
Our thoughts are with everyone who knew Cleveland.
Sign RNIBs petition calling for Network Rail and the Department for Transport to address this appalling situation by installing tactile paving and making all railway stations accessible, so blind and partially sighted people can travel safely.