Greater Anglia takes disabled rail passengers to Switzerland to test ramps and other accessibility features on its new trains
A group of disabled rail passengers and professionals has just come back from Switzerland where Greater Anglia showed them accessible features on its new trains and asked them to test new prototype ramps.
The train company has consulted with disabled rail passengers to make sure the new trains, which are replacing every single train on the Greater Anglia network, are suitable for customers with disabilities.
This week, Greater Anglia took a wheelchair user, a blind person and a visually impaired man with a guide dog to visit Stadler in Switzerland, where 58 of the company’s brand new trains are being made.
During a previous visit, the group had suggested a number of different adjustments to the design of the Stadler trains to make them easier to use for disabled people.
On Tuesday this week, they were told that the Swiss train manufacturer was able to incorporate the majority of their suggestions, including installing an additional emergency button at floor level in the accessible toilet and installing a “modesty screen” between a raised section of seating and a disabled section on the trains.
The group got to see some of those adjustments. They also tested prototype ramps and suggested modifications to the design to make it easier for wheelchair-users to get on and off the trains.
Wheelchair-user Dominic Lund-Conlon, Transport Project Lead at Essex County Council, said: “Achieving the standards set out in law is one thing. Greater Anglia has gone much further than this, working in partnership with stakeholders to achieve a train that will work across much of the disability spectrum as possible.
“They have actually listened and implemented recommendations from the disability professionals. The result so far is impressive and I can’t wait to see the new trains arrive in the UK later this year.”
Jim Watt, a visually impaired passenger, who took his guide dog, Legend, on the trip, said: “I’m pleased that Greater Anglia has listened to disabled passengers. They are genuinely listening to us and taking positive action. “
Terri Sawkins, Sensory Training Facilitator for Essex Cares Ltd, said: “It was a great privilege to involved with the project from a sensory perspective, ensuring lighting, contrasts and visual information for sight and hearing impaired people was taken into account. These trains will be fantastic and access will be as inclusive as physically possible for all.”
Helen Sismore, Community Engagement Officer for East Anglia Guide Dogs also went on the trip to advise on requirements for blind and visually impaired people with guide dogs.
She said: “We are extremely proud to be part of Greater Anglia’s project designing new trains. Being able to review and comment on accessibility will undoubtedly enable people who are blind or partially sighted use the new trains with confidence, allowing for greater movement across East Anglia.
“It is essential for organisations who provide transport services to follow the great example of Greater Anglia and their approach to making public transport accessible to all.”
Each of the new Stadler trains will have low floors and retractable steps to cover any gap between the train and the platform, to make it easier for customers to board trains.
There will be one accessible toilet on every train and designated seating areas, with tables, for wheelchair users.
Adjustments made on the group’s advice include:
- Clearly marking the outside of the train to make it clear where the disabled toilet and seating area are located.
- Changing the layout of the two wheelchair spaces on the regional trains so that passengers can travel in the direction of travel
- Reducing the size of the table in the wheelchair area
Rebecca Richardson, Greater Anglia Accessibility Manager, said: “We’re very grateful to this group for their incredibly valuable advice and insight which is helping us to make our new trains suitable for disabled rail passengers. They have given up a lot of their time to support us with this project and I’m certain the trains will be much the better for their input.”
Martino Celeghini, project manager at Stadler, said: “Stadler trains are made for comfort and style and designed to meet the highest standards of accessibility. This means avoiding steps on and off the train, wherever realistically possible.
“Our focus throughout the manufacturing process is to work very closely with the client, ensuring that the needs of their passengers are taken into account. I think we can say with confidence that this sneak preview of the new trains has helped assure the disability representatives on the visit that, in future, travelling on the East Anglia network will be easier, more convenient and more pleasant for people with limited mobility.”