Press releases

Rail regulator’s review prompts industry action on website accessibility and passenger information

6 April 2021
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has led train and station operators to improve passenger information on websites, and to confirm operators are fulfilling commitments to achieve industry-recognised accessibility standards.
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Liverpool Street station

The improvements come after the rail regulator’s two separate reviews in 2020 to analyse compliance with website requirements for all 25 operators.

Requirements include providing a source of relevant information on assisted travel on websites, and working towards achieving Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards to make sure websites can be read and used by disabled passengers.

ORR’s review has ensured content about accessible travel is easier to find by making it be located in one clear area of an operator’s website – this includes containing information on temporary reductions in accessibility, details of any delays or disruptions to facilities and services.

The same review has also seen operators provide clearer information on what redress may be owed to passengers that did not get the assistance they booked.

Disability charity, the Shaw Trust, helped ORR undertake the technical assessment of compliance with the WCAG standards. This found 11 of the 25 train and station operators had already carried out extensive work to ensure their websites met the standard prior to the review. Several used this exercise as an opportunity to ramp up the work they had already planned.

This work will mean all operators’ websites will be accessible to assistive technologies such as screen readers, all policy and guidance documents will be fully accessible, and sufficient colour contrast between text and the background will be applied across all web pages.

ORR is encouraged by operators’ efforts to date and will monitor their commitments to complete improvements by December 2021.

Stephanie Tobyn, deputy director of consumers, said:

“Websites are incredibly important and often the starting point in a passenger’s journey. They help passengers plan and book their journey, including travel assistance and claim redress if necessary.

“Our review identified a number of areas for improvement, and we’re pleased that operators are responding promptly to our findings; making assisted travel content easier to find and working towards compliance with website accessibility standards sooner rather than later.

“This work to improve website accessibility sits alongside the ongoing training of front-line staff to better understand the needs of disabled passengers. These are both parts of our Accessible Travel Policy requirements which look to make improvements across all parts of a disabled passenger’s journey.”

In March, ORR announced tens of thousands of railway staff are being trained to communicate more effectively with disabled passengers, understand the challenges they may face when travelling, and to refresh their knowledge and skills to provide any assistance needed.

By the end of 2021, almost 30,000 passenger-facing staff will have undertaken disability awareness and equality training as part of requirements set out in the Office of Rail and Road’s (ORR) Accessible Travel Policy (ATP) Guidance.

Notes to editors

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  1. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the independent economic and safety regulator for Britain’s railways, and monitor of performance and efficiency for England’s Strategic Road Network. 
  2. Train and station operators are required by their operating licences to establish and comply with an Accessible Travel Policy which must be approved by ORR.
  3. An ATP sets out, amongst other things, the arrangements and assistance that an operator will provide to protect the interests of disabled people using its services and to facilitate such use.
  4. Towards accessible assisted travel information: A review of train and station operators’ compliance with Accessible Travel Policy website obligations is the second of two reports looking at the rail industry’s Accessible Travel Policy commitments. Making the Grade: Staff disability awareness training obligations: a progress report on train and station operators was the first to be published.
  5. In this report, two website reviews were undertaken by ORR. One review looked at how operators provide a source of relevant information on assisted travel on their websites. The second review, supported by work undertaken by the charity Shaw Trust, produced an indicative snapshot of technical compliance with the web accessibility standards.
  6. ORR has also undertaken an accessibility review and like TOCs is working to swiftly implement recommendations.