Disabled rail passengers are still being left stranded on trains and platforms because of continuing failures in the system set up to book assistance, says a new report.
Passenger Focus, the rail consumer watchdog, said there had been some improvements since its last survey of the Assisted Passenger Reservation System (APRS) in 2008, but the service was still “inconsistent”.
The watchdog warned that a failure to improve could lead to the industry failing disabled passengers during the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
The report says 71 per cent of “mystery shoppers” who tested the system were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” – an improvement of just three per cent since the 2008 survey – while 15 per cent were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied”.
In two per cent of journeys (six occasions), the passenger could not get off the train and had to travel to the next station. On five per cent of journeys, no staff were present to help the passenger board the train.
The survey also found staff were only prepared for the passenger’s arrival on 65 per cent of occasions, compared with 67 per cent in 2008.
Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus’s chief executive, said there were “too many instances of staff not being adequately trained, people being left stranded without help and, in some cases, not being treated in a decent or dignified way”.
The report calls on rail companies to ensure staff are adequately trained, passengers receive accurate information, and there is good communication between staff and with passengers.
Members of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers network of young disabled campaigners took part in the survey, which followed their own investigations into rail access.
Bobby Ancil, the Trailblazers project manager, said: “Our investigations show that delivery of [APRS] is patchy and that much work still needs to be done to ensure quality of service.
“We are still hearing of disabled travellers being left unable to board their train or leave at the appropriate station.
“The need for advance booking 24 hours ahead is also a major cause of frustration for active young people with disabilities – it denies them the chance to behave as spontaneously as friends and peers.”
The Trailblazers network is working with the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) to improve APRS.
ATOC said it would roll out an “improved passenger booking system” this summer, which will be tested by Trailblazers.
An ATOC spokesman said any APRS failures were “unacceptable” but the survey did not “properly reflect the real improvements” that had been made.