One in three disabled people face rail misery

27 June 2018

Chloe, one of our campaigners, on a trainMore than a third (35%) of disabled people of working age say they have experienced problems using trains in the last year as a result of their disability, research commissioned by charity Leonard Cheshire has found.*

The findings of a nationally representative survey* of disabled adults aged 18-65 in the UK reveals the barriers faced when they attempt to travel by train.

Issues facing disabled people include being unable to use train stations because of a lack of step-free access, to feeling trapped in the carriage, or not being made aware they are at the right stop. 

Leonard Cheshire say disabled people are getting a second-rate service on the UK rail network, and has launched a campaign calling on the Government to make sure that all train operators provide accessible end-to-end journeys.

Disabled people’s experience of train journeys can be extremely stressful from start to finish; with inaccessible platforms and trains, difficulty purchasing tickets and a lack of announcements.

The personal experiences of disabled people underline why change is needed. 

Chloe is a 30-year-old writer living in Herne Bay, Kent.

Only one side of her local train station is wheelchair accessible, which means when she needs to catch a train to London, she’s unable to get to the right platform and requires a taxi to take her to the nearest accessible station, 20 minutes away.

She said:

‘I have to book a taxi, assistance and a train ticket in advance.

‘This is complicated and assistance is unreliable.

‘I get really anxious that assistance is not going to be there or that there may not be member of staff on the platform and I panic.

‘You feel stranded and completely helpless. It’s so stressful and exhausting.

‘You feel as if you always have to anticipate a lack of help in case you are forgotten about.’

Good quality, accessible public transport means that disabled people can live, learn and work independently as they choose.

Having accessible and easier train journeys can make the difference between getting out to work and seeing family and friends instead of feeling isolated and excluded from community life. 

Vinny, from Liverpool, says that the lack of accessible trains has affected his employment opportunities.

He said:

‘Poor public transport means you have to consider which jobs to go for, and some are just not an option.

‘If someone offered you a promotion but the nearest train station only has steps, then it will make the difference between going for the job or not.’

Anna, from Leicester, has experienced frequent issues caused by poor rail accessibility, including being trapped on trains with no assistance to get off.

Her experiences have knocked her confidence in using public transport.

She said: 

‘After a negative experience it takes a lot of confidence to put yourself back out there. Some people say to me, why do you still use public transport?

‘And I say, I don’t have a choice! Well I suppose I do have a choice, I could not go to my meetings. But to me that’s not a choice I’m willing to make.’

Leonard Cheshire is calling on the government to improve accessible train journeys for disabled people, and is encouraging the public to sign their petition.

Neil Heslop, chief executive at Leonard Cheshire, said: 

‘It’s unacceptable that in 2018 disabled people cannot travel independently and easily whenever they want to, and are missing out on employment, education and social opportunities.   

‘Government must address these fundamental issues affecting rail travel for disabled people.’

Notes to Editors

*ComRes interviewed 1,609 disabled adults in the UK, aged between 18 and 65, from 15th June to 10th July 2017.

Data were weighted by age, gender and region to be nationally representative of disabled adults of working age in the UK.

ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Read the full comres results.

For further information and interview requests, please contact: Bethany Ditzel on bethany.ditzel@leonardcheshire.org or call 0203 242 0389.