Regulator rebukes SWR for lack of wheelchair access at Liphook station

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The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has instructed South Western Railway (SWR) to comply with its legal duty in ensuring that people using wheelchairs can board and alight from trains at Liphook station. 

Action was taken after the regulator identified SWR was failing to provide a boarding device (such as a ramp) when required.
 
The gap between train and platform at the Hampshire station means passengers using wheelchairs cannot board or alight independently.

Trains using Liphook were designed and built with features to make them accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities.  However, most stations on the network cannot provide level access at all platforms and in many cases a ramp or other boarding device is required for passengers using a wheelchair. 

With no arrangements for providing boarding aids at Liphook, SWR is forcing passengers who use a wheelchair to travel to another station or to simply not use the train.

Stephanie Tobyn, Deputy Director, Consumers at ORR said:

"All passengers who need assistance to travel must be able to do so safely and with confidence. 

"Our recent updated accessibility guidelines set a benchmark for train and station operators to deliver better passenger assistance and we have seen improvements, but where this isn’t happening we will take action.

"Helping wheelchair users to get on and off a train is a fundamental duty for a train operator and a vital service for passengers. That is why we’ve taken action to ensure SWR fulfils this essential accessibility standard."

Notes to editors
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  1. ORR initially raised the issue with SWR to allow them to put things right, but SWR did not put in place clear time bound plans to address matters. 

    As such, ORR issued a formal Improvement Notice to SWR on 14 October 2020, requiring the necessary arrangements to be in place by May 2021.
     
  2. Improvement Notice and accessibility requirements.

    Schedule 1 of the Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Non-Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2010 (RVAR) is the standard that applies to the Class 444 and Class 450 trains using Liphook station.  

    Section 1 requires that, when a wheelchair-compatible doorway in a rail vehicle is open at a platform at a station, a boarding device must be fitted by the operator between that doorway and the platform if a disabled person in a wheelchair wishes to use that doorway.  

    There is no requirement to provide the boarding device where the gap between the edge of the door sill of the wheelchair-compatible doorway and the platform is not more than 75 millimetres measured horizontally and not more than 50 millimetres measured vertically.

    Failure to comply with this improvement notice is an offence and could result in prosecution.
     
  3. The deadline of May 2021 acknowledges that the three options for compliance may take some time, particularly while COVID-19 controls affect resourcing levels:
    • Provision of boarding device: the physical constraints of the platform require a non-standard boarding device such as a ramp with a turning area or a mobile hydraulic lift.  We are not aware that these are available ‘off the shelf’.  Once procured SWR will also have to provide training and instruction to staff who are going to use the equipment.
    • Reduction of gap between train and platform: these require site-specific design work and are likely to require closure of the line through the station for construction. 
    • Dispensation from requirements: DfT requires time to process any application for a deviation so that it can follow defined consultation processes.