Wheelworld Railway

Boarding the train as a commuter

Posted in Access For All, News by Wheel World Dad on November 10, 2010

I’m going to refer to a BBC article here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11676437

This is about the getting off and on trains quickly.  But I notice an absense of any recognition about those who are mobility impaired – the visually impaired, the infirm, the older person, the wheelchair user.  Where is the consideration of our boarding?  It’s still not independent.  It’s still reliant on someone with a ramp.  And what happens when commuters shove in to try to get on board whilst I’m trying to get off the train?  I get held back, the train gets delayed and – yep – you’ve guessed it – people complain because of this.

So – open invite here: I invite anyone from a major news channel service – BBC, CNN, ITN – give me a comment with a number – it won’t get published.  Lets talk about how you might like to see a disabled commuters story.

Travel2020 – but what do we want?

Posted in Access For All, Conferences by Wheel World Dad on September 5, 2010

Disabled people have never had it so good.  More and more new routes of transport are opened up every day to becoming accessible to 95% of disabled people.

But there can always be more done.  In the next 10 years, step entrance buses will not be allowed to be used on registered local bus services, more rail vehicles will be accessible than ever and taxis will be falling into line with the rest of the industry.

But what do disabled people really want?  There is a tall order to demand equal access, comparable to anything available to someone who is considered able-bodied.  Persons with Learning Disabilities would like to be recognised as needing a form of access too.  What about those with hearing impairments?  Visual impairments? What do people want?

So – I invite your comments – tell me something you’d like to see by 2020.  It has to be something realistic though.  Comments close on the 10th September

APRS goes offline… but no word yet on replacement.

Posted in APRS, Passenger Focus by Wheel World Dad on May 26, 2010

Yesterday I received an email at about 15:30 from East Coast Trains:

For approximately 35 hours from 00.01 on Saturday 29 May, until around 11.00 on Sunday 30 May it will not be possible to make seat reservations or to book Advance tickets at stations, call centres or over the internet. This is to allow vital upgrade work to the national reservation system in response to growing customer demand and will affect all Train Operators and retail channels, not just East Coast.

During this period, timetable advice will continue to be available and tickets can be sold where a seat reservation is not required.

The Assisted Passenger Reservation Service (APRS) will also be unavailable during this time. Any passengers who require assistance boarding and alighting their train are advised to book in advance.

If you are travelling with a bicycle during this period, please note that we cannot guarantee there will be space on the train for it unless you have pre-booked.

Thank you for your understanding while this work takes place

Oh dear.

The Assisted Passenger Reservation Service (APRS) will also be unavailable during this time. Any passengers who require assistance boarding and alighting their train are advised to book in advance.

Yep – you read that right.  So, passengers on Saturday who might want to travel Sunday or on Monday morning have to either run the risk or try to book Sunday afternoon.

So my question is this: Why could they have not found a work around, using email or faxes and phones?

I passed this yesterday to Ashwin Kumar of Passenger Focus who came back to me with a very quick reply:

We chased ATOC on this issue today and what they’ve told us is that people won’t be able to make new bookings whilst the National Reservation system is down on Saturday and up to 11am on Sunday but any bookings made before 6pm on Friday will be honoured at the weekend because they’ll download the data before the reservation system goes down and distribute it manually to stations.  Of course, none of the TOC web sites that I checked today explained clearly that APRS bookings for this weekend needed to be made before 6pm on Friday.

Given that any bookings made over the weekend for Monday onwards could be taken and entered on Sunday afternoon, the only journeys that needed to be affected would be those booked after 6pm on Friday and made on Sunday.  There won’t be that many of them so I can’t see why they couldn’t just operate a manual system for such bookings this weekend.

so – minimal people affected (thank goodness), but it perhaps highlights weaknesses in the system.

The DfT and ATOC have mooted for a little while they are aware of the weaknesses and have since told Passenger Focus that they have designed a funding package for APRS’ replacement.  Designing the funding package is one thing, but actually securing the funding is quite another.  With the cuts recently, there is a pretty good chance that funding will not be found easily, but this shouldn’t deter ATOC from trying hard.  With 2012 approaching fast which will need a resilient system in place, I can’t help but worry that all the hard work by the ODA could all fall flat on its face.

‘Nuff said.

Railway improvement

Posted in Access For All, Business, Conferences, Public Service Events by Wheel World Dad on May 25, 2010

Today I attended the Railway Improvement Conference 2010 put on by Public Service Events.  It was well attended by many local authorities and representative groups as well as businesses.

The day started off slow with very little mention of what was important – indeed Christian Woolmar who was chairing was slightly more annoyed at people getting hyped up about HS2 and High Speed Rail in general.  I felt this actually detracted from the day.

The Workshop I attended (Smart Ticketting sponsored by Novacroft) was, however, very good.  There was little sales and a lot of discussion about smart ticketting, the types and the methods of delivery as well costs.  This began to make up for the High Speed discussion.

The afternoon was when it got interesting.  Ashwin Kumar from Passenger Focus spoke first about increasing passenger ratings.  This was quite interesting for me as it provided information that I didn’t quite know about how they find out the information and calculate the pretty graphs.

Chris Green then discussed about Stations – this too was interesting as he highlighted about doing the basics, especially in a time when we have less money.

The Panel was where the event livened up – because someone (who wasn’t me) asked about persons with learning disabilities using Ticket Vending Machines and how they were expected to.  I offered a (hopefully useful) comment about how we need to offer such routes out of these but also that we need to consider about the next 5 years or so – because we need to begin to make changes now.  I also explained about how people in that room over the next 20 years we need to be ready for the growing numbers of disabled people.

I also asked about how, with a train every 15 seconds, the ODA expect persons with disability to be assisted quickly and with dignity.  It was quite a difficult question to answer – indeed the  answer was “we’ll leave it up to those who know – i.e. the TOCs”.  But at least I wasn’t given rubbish.

A good day, a good event.

Just as I was leaving, an emailed arrived from East Coast Trains announcing how the APRS will be down this weekend.  I passed this to Ashwin and left…

Signs for signs sake?

Posted in Uncategorized by Wheel World Dad on May 25, 2010
Signs at London Liverpool Street

Signs at London Liverpool Street

Signs at Liverpool Street, today. It gave me a headache. Will type about today more in a moment.

Nice architecture on the Railway

Posted in Architecture, Photos by Wheel World Dad on May 15, 2010

Provided I can access it, I might take some photos of architecture I like. 

This image is at Chelmsford.  I commute into Chelmsford most days so to spot this, well, you need to look closely.  I like this because its evident some thought went into designing this to be as somewhere that people would enjoy walking through, a sense of importance to it that its going to lead somewhere.

Link to lift access Chelmsford

Link to lift access Chelmsford

Its sad that it actually links through to this…

Chelmsford Lift Subway

Chelmsford Lift Subway

Looks can be deceptive, can’t they?

I’ll add more to this as I travel – I have a trip to Bradford coming up next month as well as a trip into the capital in a couple of weeks.

The Future of Station Design

Posted in Business, FOSD, Partnership by Wheel World Dad on May 2, 2010

I was recently quite lucky to be invited to attend the Conference “Future of Station Design”.  It was a very positive day and I enjoyed meeting many people I’ve admired the work of over the years.  Maggie Philbin and Mark Williams were both very good, but also for me, meeting Chris Green again and discussing with people from technology companies about issues faced was a real high point for my day.

I want to touch on some highlights of the day

Sustainability

Sustainability is a word thrown about quite a lot at the moment – if the ‘naughties’ (2000-2009) was the decade of the “iWord”, 2010-2019 is definitely the decade of “sustainability’ and the key word of 2010, if the general election is anything to go by, is change

Sustainability is about changing to sustain those changes.  Growth, decline, environment – key elements of change. 

Network Rail are now beginning to embrace modular design.  This enables the ability to change in response to change – adding or removing toilet facilities, shops, cafes, upgrading ticket halls, downgrading ticket halls.  How does this affect accessibility?  Modular Design means that where access needs changing, it can change. 

The physical environment is one that must also change.  With physical changes to then environment, concrete based flooring such as paving, tarmac on platforms, edging etc can all come susceptible to the environment, especially with the rapid swings of extremes we have witnessed in recent years. 

Access

Railways have come a long way from 1990 to 2010 – in 20 years we have seen the departure of slam door trains where someone in a wheelchair would be expected to travel in the guards van and the advent of inclusive travel (albeit mostly sat beside a smell-emitting toilet).  But one area has not changed dramatically – the first step from platform to train. 

We have witnessed an enormous amount of investment in lifts, height adjustable ticket desks, fold-out ramps (replacing heavy barrows), none of which I would change.  But we have an ever growing population of those who need better access.  Surely the next step is to remove that step – automatic ramps or step free access. 

Indeed, the key word of the conference was “the future”.

Design

Design is a key part of access.  It was interesting to learn about how design is affected by key thoughts about the station – will it be an icon, will it properly convey the emotion of what is happening etc, what are the characteristics of the building…

I noticed though that in amongst this and more that I’ve not mentioned, there was little focus on something important – inclusion of all in the community.  Why?  A wheelchair often makes an appearance in “artist impressions” but what about those with hearing impairments?  What about those with visual impairments?  Learning disabilities? Mental Health? Ambulant but infirm? 

Conclusion

I said at the conference that no where is ever going to be 100% accessible.  But 95% is a good marker to aim for.  There will always have to be compromises.  But the key points need to begin to take a focus now, because over the next 10-20 years, we’ll be building, renovating, changing stations.  If not, we get into a pattern of repeating ourselves.

An aside

I left the conference at 18:00 or just after – it was in Covent Garden.  I wheeled down the road, got the number 23 bus and went to the station by myself.  That’s independence. 

Scottish Parliament criticises access cash cuts

Posted in Access For All, News, Scotland by Wheel World Dad on May 2, 2010

This is in response to the BBC News Article http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8656222.stm .

I’m in agreement that this cash should not be cut.  Its quite important that access for all should continue unhindered.

Why?

Because we are striving for a change in accessing all of our railways – not just the main stations and perceived main destinations of those who need access.

Because in partnership, disabled people are working forward to attain the same levels of independence any able bodied person might have.

Because disabled people want to travel too.

We are living in an economy where we need to get more for less.  So why shouldn’t we try to get more?  Isn’t £2.5 million on a lift a little excessive?  So – lets find why it costs so much and adjust that.  But not at the expense of disabled people.