Press releases

Tens of thousands of railway staff trained in understanding disabled people’s needs

2 March 2021
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.
Cover Image
Wheelchair user being assisted by a member of staff on a railway station platform

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.

The rail regulator welcomed this progress made by all 24 train and station operators in its review of ATP commitments. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, most operators are broadly on track to meet their commitments by the end of July.

Great Western Railway has already met its commitments, having trained all of its 4,600 frontline staff.

ORR’s monitoring of the roll-out has also seen 13 train and station operators develop brand new courses to be used in staff inductions and for refresher training. 

Key to successful delivery has been the involvement of disabled people in the development and delivery of training – making their experiences of using the railway a central focus. 

And 11 train operators are extending the training from frontline staff to all colleagues.

The good progress has been made following initial concerns ORR had about gaps in training materials and plans received from operators in July 2020. 

Initially although only four of 24 operators submitted sufficient evidence to assure ORR they would meet the mandatory training requirements by July 2021, ORR were nevertheless confident that a further eight were in a position to meet the requirements pending submission of additional material.  

Following subsequent discussions and the receipt of further evidence, ORR is now confident the remaining 12 operators are able to meet their ATP commitments.

Stephanie Tobyn, Deputy Director, Consumers at ORR said: 

“ORR wants all passengers to be able to travel safely with confidence and with ease. Introducing obligations on train and station operators to provide up-to-date, regular disability awareness and equality training to their staff is part of our broad package of measures to improve the experience of disabled passengers.

“Despite our initial concerns about progress in designing and delivering compliant training packages, the picture has become much more positive over the last six months, with the process of training tens of thousands of staff now well under way.” 

Neil Craig, Mobility and Inclusion Manager at Great Western Railway, said: 

“As lockdown is eased and people start to use the railway again, it is more important than ever that we do everything we can to ensure that the services we offer are accessible to all passengers.

“We are immensely proud to deliver this new disability awareness training, ensuring that all of our helpful and friendly frontline staff, have the knowledge and training required to give customers with disabilities the time, support and assistance that they require."

Sarah Rennie, accessibility specialist and trainer, who has been delivering training to a number of train operators, said: 

“It’s a privilege to lead teams of disabled trainers to facilitate discussions which challenge outdated perceptions, and support staff to understand what the 21st century disabled consumer expects. As a disabled rail passenger myself, I’m confident that with the right supportive culture, rather than seeing us as ‘tasks’, we’ll see a stronger shift to valuing our end-to-end customer experience.”

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. Making the Grade: Staff disability awareness training obligations: a progress report on train and station operators is one of two reports looking at the rail industry’s Accessible Travel Policy commitments.

  5. ORR dedicates this report to Margaret Hickish MBE, who passed away on 26 January. In 2018. Margaret helped ORR to analyse train and station operators’ training materials and to propose a new framework for the industry. This work formed the basis of the revised ATP Guidance staff disability awareness and equality training requirements.

  6. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on their preparations, five of the 24 train operators have been granted an extension to the deadline for providing refresher training to frontline staff to enable them to meet their obligations – all have committed to doing so by 31 December 2021.