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Rail Companies: Disabled Passengers

Volume 618: debated on Thursday 8 December 2016

2. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that rail companies provide on-board visual and auditory displays for disabled passengers. (907757)

The provision of an audio-visual passenger information system is mandatory for all new trains, and it has been since 1999. For older trains, operators have until 1 January 2020 to fit an AV passenger system. Currently, 70% of the fleet operated on the main line has been either built compliant or upgraded to be compliant, and the rest of the fleet will be upgraded or replaced by 2020.

How can we encourage staff on our railways to make announcements on the trains to help visually impaired passengers when visual displays are either not fitted on the trains or, as is the case most of the time, not working?

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. It is a condition of an operator’s passenger licence that it must publish a disabled persons protection policy. That covers how the needs of visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing people are met with regard to AV systems, including in times of delay or disruption. DPPPs have to be approved by the Office of Rail and Road. Additionally, disability awareness training is mandatory for all customer-facing staff and managers in train operating companies.

This week, the all-party parliamentary group for disability published an informative report on measures to close the disability employment gap. One of the issues raised by disabled people is the cutting of benefits, which reduces their independence and results in the removal of their Motability vehicles. When will the Government reverse this disabling policy?

The hon. Lady raises a very important question. I will have to look into this matter and reply to her in writing.

It is a very important question, but, unfortunately, it is somewhat different from the question on the Order Paper. That may explain the Minister’s need to undertake some important research, the fruits of which I am sure we will witness in due course.

Having a disability-accessible train service is hugely important, but disabled people need to be able to get to the train station in the first place. What is the Minister doing to make sure that local authorities have a more consistent approach to making our built environment more disability-accessible, particularly in making sure that we have more consistency in shared space schemes?

Shared space schemes are a very controversial area, and their name does not help people. With shared space schemes, local authorities are trying to remove some of the visual clutter and improve the built environment, but that cannot be done at the expense of disabled people. In the Department, we have a work group that, with the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation, is looking at good practice in this area, and it will publish its report shortly.

Making audio-visual information on public transport mandatory for buses is overdue. Will the Government confirm that they will accept the amendment to the Bus Services Bill, which is going through the Lords?

The Government tabled an amendment in the Lords to introduce AV displays on buses. The Bill has finished its passage through the Lords, and I think it will be introduced in this House in the new year. We are very keen on the amendment, and we were very pleased to get it into the Bill.