A coalition of influencers, charities and transport partners have signed an open letter as part of the Department for Transport ‘It’s Everyone’s Journey’ campaign, encouraging everyone to help create a more supportive travelling environment.
Chris Heaton-Harris is a Minister of State at the Department for Transport, with responsibility for accessibility and spoke with Able Magazine about the relaunched campaign.
Where does inviting better attitudes from the public end and enforcement begin? Other problems, such as abuse of disabled parking bays, goes unpunished…
If we can get people doing the things we’ve asked for in this open letter, then that in itself is worth doing.
I would like to think that when disabled travellers start to come back to the railway that they will find it a completely different place. You’ll find firstly there’s a huge amount of staff training that’s been going on and indeed, most people that work on the railway completely understand that we need to win our market back. Gone are the days of complacency, where you could just rely on people to turn up. In April 2020, it was down to 4% of what we would have expected in terms of travellers. Railway businesses understand that disabled people are a big market for the railway, so it’s an offer we need to get right.
So, there’s Everyone’s Journey, and you’ll have also seen, as we launched Great British Railways, the Williams-Shapps plan for rail reform and that rail companies, have launched their passenger access app, which is a vast step up from anything that we had before. This is something we needed to get 100% right, because disabled people who need help, need the confidence to know that there will be someone there if they ask them to be there and that they will be assisted.
Everybody’s Journey commits to create a transport system that offers “equal access for disabled people by 2030 with assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier”. Is that a contradiction in terms?
I think it’s just an honest statement. I’ve only got one railway station in my constituency, Long Buckby. It’s got dozens of steps – and it has very few passengers. So for the cost of making it accessible, I’m pretty sure we could fix five or six other stations. So, I think Long Buckby will be one of the last stations to be made accessible. I want the disabled passenger who decides that they want to use Long Buckby to either use the app to make sure that they get the right assistance, or we offer them a better travel solution.
How are you going to measure the efficacy of the campaign?
As you know, it was launched and then got paused because of coronavirus but in that time, it was well received. We’ve been chomping at the bit to get it back because I’m a great believer that when you remind people to do the right thing, the vast majority of them do it. That makes everybody’s life that much nicer and that means we can then concentrate on those people that don’t do the right thing and find different methods of making sure that they understand that they are the odd one out.
The Passenger Assistance app is available for download from Google Play and the App Store, now.