Wheelworld Railway

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…

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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.