Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has told the rail industry of his disappointment that dispensations have been required to allow some classes of train to remain in service without accessibility modifications.
The deadline for compliance with the Persons with Reduced Mobility Technical Specification for Interoperability (PRM-TSI) was midnight on 31 December 2019. That day, the Department for Transport published details of time-limited dispensations granted to a number of fleets which are not compliant with the regulations.
Writing to Rail Delivery Group Chief Executive Paul Plummer, Mr Heaton-Harris said: ‘It is extremely disappointing that the rail industry and train operators will fail to meet the deadline to provide accessible trains for every passenger and every journey by the end of the year.
‘Owners and operators have had 10 years to prepare for the 31 December 2019 deadline. It is deeply frustrating that disabled passengers will still be waiting into 2020 to see accessibility improvements to some services.’
However, the minister accepted that removing non-compliant trains from service would have ‘a disproportionately negative effect on the provision of services for passengers’ and said he had ‘reluctantly agreed to issue strictly time-limited dispensation notices to a number of operators for around 1,200 carriages in the national fleet’.
‘The Government’s position is unequivocal’ Mr Heaton-Harris concluded. ‘The industry must urgently address the issue of providing accessible rail carriages and replacement bus and coach services. Delivering an accessible service for every passenger on every rail journey is essential to creating an inclusive and accessible railway. It must not be delayed any longer.’
A full list of fleets granted dispensations and analysis of the issue by Roger Ford will appear in the February issue of Modern Railways, on sale 23 January.