Assistance for disabled people who can’t get on a train by themselves (because of a step onto the train, or difficulty locating a seat, for instance) has been a challenge since vehicles and infrastructure became more accessible. It’s a piece of the jigsaw that persistently causes problems. Experience in Poland and in Denmark suggest the driver takes responsibility for getting wheelchair users on and off the train. This means no phoning ahead by the origin station to organise alighting at your destination. This reduces potential for communication breakdown – a common problem in the UK. Although this use of driver time could be considered counterproductive – surely they have a different role to perform? – it seemed very efficient. In addition it potentially reduces delay to the train and minimises hassle for the disabled traveller.
The successful provision of assistance is an aspect of governance. We often think of governance as a Board level issue, but if the delivery systems (in this case passenger assistance) don’t work, that’s a failure of governance and oversight throughout the organisation.
Many UK transport providers espouse the concept of inclusive transport and genuinely wish to deliver it. But if it’s going to be delivered in practice, Boards need to ensure that systems are well-designed, resources are appropriately allocated and delivery is properly monitored to guarantee success.