Thank you to those who have got in touch about tactile paving and the risks faced by blind and partially sighted people at rail stations.
I was shocked and saddened by the death of Mr Cleveland Gervais last February, who fell from the edge of a platform at Eden Park Rail Station in London and was struck by a train. The report into his death concluded that he was probably unaware he was close to the edge of the platform, which was not fitted with tactile strips. I understand that of the 5,500 train station platforms across the network, it is estimated that around 2,200 are not fitted with tactile strips.
In February, the report of the incident was released. The Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents highlighted what he described as “no coherent strategy for the provision of tactile strips, despite their obvious importance to visually impaired people who value the opportunity to travel independently, without reliance on staff.” He concluded that it “cannot always make sense simply to wait until platforms are refurbished to install the strips.”
I am aware that the Government has now accepted the Rail Accident Investigation Board’s recommendations in the Eden Park report in full. In its National Disability Strategy, released in July, the Government said it would “work with Network Rail to develop proposals for the accelerated upgrade of rail station platforms with tactile paving”. It is aiming to install tactile strips on every platform by 2029. However, I understand that concerns have been raised by campaigners that tactile paving will only be installed at 200 “priority stations” by next March and that the lives of blind and partially-sighted rail passengers will be at risk for years to come.
The right to physical accessibility, which is the foundation of so many economic, social, civil and political rights, is, for many, dependent on access to public transport. I believe the Government needs to deliver on the principle that every disabled person can live a fully independent life. It must explain how it will work towards doing everything practically possible to ensure there are tactile strips at the edges of all rail station platforms.