Government Consults on Rail Accessibility - Press Notice: 372/ Transport

Press release (London, England) - Trains and trams entering service after 31 December 1998 will be fully accessible. Internet publication URL:

Date: 15 May 1998

Read the Disabled People's Direct Action Network (DAN) response to this Press Release

Trains and trams entering service after 31 December 1998 will be fully accessible to disabled people under plans set out today by Transport Minister, Glenda Jackson.

In a consultation document, the Government is seeking views on proposed regulations to ensure that the rail industry meets the needs of those with limited mobility under the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Commenting, Ms Jackson said:

"The Government is committed to comprehensive, enforceable civil rights for disabled people. Accessible public transport, within the framework of an integrated transport policy, is fundamentally important to delivering that commitment. "These regulations, which will require wheelchair access and other facilities to meet the needs of disabled people on all new trains and trams, will make a significant contribution towards improving access to public transport for those with limited mobility."

A full assessment of the costs of introducing the regulations is included in the consultation document. Published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, it follows two previous informal consultations on proposals for taxis and for buses and coaches under the transport provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act.


  1. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 provides powers for the Government to make accessibility regulations for buses and coaches, trains and licensed taxis.
  2. Informal consultation has already taken place on the proposals for taxis, and buses and coaches.
  3. This statutory consultation on the draft rail vehicle regulations will run until 26 June 1998. They have been formally notified to the European Commission.
  4. The document is around 70 pages, and you can get a free copy by contacting:
    The Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions
    Mobility Unit
    Zone 1/11
    Great Minster House
    76 Marsham Street
    London, SW1P 4DR

Disabled People's Direct Action Network (DAN)
About DAN

The UK Government has issued a consultation document on access to trains. The department is DETR - The Department for the Environment, Transport and Regions. The consultation is part of the DDA - The Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

The deadline for responses is 26 June 1998.

The draft regulations will only apply to new trains first used from 1 January 1999.

The draft regulations cover a number of technical issues, for example on the types of colour contrasts which should be used for doors to make them easy to find for visually impaired people. This note is not a full description of all these details - instead this is a first attempt to identify the key issues and limitations which will be of concern.

Key features

  • At least ten per cent of the seats must be "Priority Seats for Disabled People" with a specified minimum leg room and a movable armrest (pages 9, 10).
  • A train which is only one vehicle must have at least one wheelchair space. A tram must have at least two wheelchair spaces. A train of between 2 and 11 carriages must have at least two wheelchair spaces. A train of 12 or more carriages must have at least four wheelchair spaces. Within a train, there must be at least one wheelchair space in each class (pages 15, 16).
  • Trains with sleeping accommodation must include at least one compartment which is "wheelchair-compatible" (page 17).
  • Wheelchair users must have a table if other passengers have one (page 17).
  • The standard width allowed for a wheelchair is 700mm within the carriage, and 900mm at the doorway and for the path to the wheelchair space/s. This will rule out people using some larger wheelchairs and scooters (pages 19 and 21).
  • The nearest toilet (if any) to a wheelchair space or sleeping compartment must be accessible (page 19).
  • The nearest telephone (if any) to a wheelchair space must be no higher than 1400mm (page 20).
  • A train will not be forced by law to have a boarding device (a lift or a ramp) if - - it is an underground vehicle - the horizontal gap is less than 75mm - the vertical gap is less than 50mm (page 21).
  • If the boarding device is a manual ramp, then assistance must be provided by the train operating company's staff. A lift must be at least 750mm wide, and a ramp at least 850mm wide. Manual ramps are the cheapest option, at 300 pounds each (page 49).
  • If a wheelchair user cannot use the catering facilities, then "a reasonably equivalent catering service" must be provided (page 24).


Key issues

  1. No end date There would be no date in law by which current trains must be made accessible. According to the Government: "This effectively provides the industry with a timescale for compliance which can reflect their replacement programmes rather than requiring premature scrapping." and "the cost to the industry of compliance with the DDA should be relatively low." (page 41) The Government calculates that all trains will be accessible by 2032 (page 43).

    The increase in cost for accessible trains is estimated to be between 0.5% and 2.5% of current prices (page 49).


  2. No boarding devices for underground trains "The basis for exemption [of underground trains] is that train frequencies on these systems, combined with the length of time it takes to use a boarding device, would make it impractical." (page 53)

    "The expensive business of making [underground] stations wheelchair accessible is covered by a different part of the [DDA] which is being taken forward by the Department for Education and Employment." (page 53)

    Underground trains will probably include London, Liverpool, Glasgow and Newcastle. I understand that the Liverpool and Newcastle companies have accessible stations, and accessible trains in Newcastle - is this correct ?

    Although London Underground are currently introducing some new trains with a wheelchair symbol on some doors, these doors are towards the middle of carriages. However, at some curved platform, the centre doors have the widest gap and the end doors have the narrowest gap, so London Underground's planners could have designed the wheelchair spaces at the end of carriages as well.


  3. No room for larger wheelchairs The transport industry is pressing hard for a "standard wheelchair", and one as small as possible. Some companies only want a width of 670mm. This shows no recognition of people's different needs.


What next?

You might want to send for a copy of the full document, which is free of charge.

DAN regional groups might want to consider making their views known, maybe with some press coverage.

Any meetings with train companies (Virgin, Stagecoach, etc) could be used to try to get commitments to a better deal, and use these against the worst companies.

London Underground is a different kind of company, with close links to Government, so a more political approach is probably required here. If they have got billions of pounds for new tunnels, would a 300 pound ramp on each train really break the bank ? And we could hold competitions to see how quickly you can flip out and back in again a hinged, manual ramp. Glenda to go first!


Disabled People's Direct Action Network (DAN)

DAN campaigns for accessible public transport and full civil rights for disabled people.

We use tactics of NON VIOLENT civil disobedience such as handcuffing ourselves to buses, occupying transport offices and crawling into Parliament to draw public attention to the issues that affect disabled people every day.

DAN uses these tactics to get to the negotiating table, talk to the people who can give us what they want and get a victory.

We believe that segregation is evil and affects everybody. We believe that discrimination against disabled people fundamentally damages the social fabric of our society and is unjust.

Currently DAN is focusing on accessible public transport as an achievable goal towards the overall aim of full participation and equality of disabled people in this society.

Any one can join DAN we welcome disabled people and non disabled allies. DAN has a network of local organising groups who organise actions, meet and discus issues that affect people locally and nationally. When you join we can put you in touch with these groups.

DAN holds two national 3 day actions a year in different parts of the country and the best way to get involved is to get to those actions and meet everybody. These actions have been known to change peoples lives so beware!

To join DAN please ring National DAN on 0181 889 1361
or Write to DAN at:
3, Crawley Rd.
Wood Green
London N22 6AN
United Kingdom

or email DAN :-

DAN has very little money and much of DAN's work is done through disabled peoples personal commitment and finance. We need money to provide information and to ensure that no matter how poor a disabled person is they can afford to demonstrate for their rights. Your donation will go towards ensuring that disabled people can take part in their struggle for liberation. Please send as much as you can to National DAN at the address above.