The government has repeatedly ignored concerns raised by its own accessible transport advisers about the “toxic” impact on disabled people of running trains without a member of customer service staff on board, official documents have revealed.The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) has been warning the Department for Transport (DfT) of its concerns for more than two years, according to letters, minutes of meetings and responses to public consultations.DPTAC’s warnings have only emerged because of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the rail users’ campaign group The Association of British Commuters.DPTAC – most of whose members are disabled people – first wrote to a senior DfT civil servant in April 2016 to warn of the “toxic combination of driver-only operated (DOO) trains and unstaffed stations”.It warned then that such a combination, if there were no customer service staff on the train, was unlawful under the Equality Act.But DPTAC has continued to raise the issue with the government, with further warnings issued in a response to a consultation in February this year; in its response to the government’s draft transport accessibility action plan; and even – two months ago – in a face-to-face meeting with transport accessibility minister Nusrat Ghani.Ghani dismissed those concerns in the meeting.In its response to the draft action plan, DPTAC warned that “the increasing emphasis on technology and automation, and changes in passenger practices, are leading to a reduction in the levels of available customer services that all passengers, particularly disabled people, need and rely on”.It added: “Our advice is that, trains without a member of customer service staff, combined with unstaffed stations make it impossible to reduce the need to pre-book, and create a ‘toxic’ combination for many disabled people that excludes them from using rail.”DPTAC called on ministers to “urgently research” whether train operating companies were delivering accessible rail services or were excluding disabled people, and whether DfT’s policies were “acting in a way that undermines the fundamental principle of accessibility”.But despite DPTAC’s pleas, the government’s new inclusive transport strategy, launched last week, included no measures to address the staffing issue.In its response in February this year to a consultation on the new Great Western franchise, DPTAC said there were 29 Great Western Railway stations that were unstaffed or only staffed part-time and were served by driver-only operated trains with no regular onboard staff available.In the meeting with Ghani in May, DPTAC’s Matthew Smith asked the minister if she agreed that rail franchise agreements should ensure there were on-board staff – in addition to the driver – whenever trains call at unstaffed or part-staffed stations.The notes of the meeting make clear that Ghani did not consider that greater use of DOO trains, alongside other measures to improve access, would have a significant impact on disabled passengers, and that she believed that it was an issue in which DfT’s view “does not follow that of DPTAC’s concerns”.DPTAC told the minister in response that it believed that “the impact of the combination of DOO and unstaffed stations has not been properly considered and that its advice to the department is that such an evaluation is needed urgently”.DfT this week refused to answer a series of questions about the documents.It refused to say whether it agreed with DPTAC that using DOO trains without a member of customer service staff, combined with unstaffed stations, created a “toxic” combination for many disabled people that excluded them from using rail services.It also refused to say why Ghani dismissed those concerns in her meeting with DPTAC, and why the inclusive transport strategy included no measures to address the rail staffing issue.DfT also refused to say if it agreed that unstaffed or part-staffed stations served by DOO trains with no regular on-board staff breached the Equality Act.And it failed to explain why it ignored DPTAC’s call for research on whether this was excluding disabled people from rail travel, and whether its own policies were “acting in a way that undermines the fundamental principle of accessibility”.Instead of answering the questions, a DfT spokesman issued the following statement: “Disabled passengers must have the same opportunities to travel as other members of society, and it is essential that the services they rely on are accessible and work for them.“With modern trains the driver is responsible for operating the doors, leaving the second crew member free to spend more time helping passengers, including people who need assistance getting on and off the train.“The transport secretary has been clear that with a growing railway we need more staff, not fewer.“On Southern Rail – the only operator to introduce these changes since January 2017 – there are now more trains that run with a second crew member than before the changes were introduced.”The DfT spokesman also said that train companies must comply with the Equality Act and have a legal obligation to provide equal access to disabled passengers.And he said they must also publish a disabled people’s protection policy under the terms of their licence, which sets out their plans for disability access and must be approved by the rail regulator. A note from the editor:For nine years, Disability News Service has survived largely through the support of a small number of disability organisations – most of them user-led – that have subscribed to its weekly supply of news stories. That support has been incredibly valuable but is no longer enough to keep DNS financially viable. For this reason, please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please remember that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring, and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…
A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS… A trio of disabled peers who have all been fierce critics of the discrimination faced by disabled air passengers have delivered a mixed response to the government’s proposed new “passenger charter”.The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Friday (7 December) that a planned consultation on a new aviation strategy, expected by the end of the year, would include plans for the new charter.A draft version of the charter, seen by Disability News Service (DNS), includes a series of proposals aimed at improving the way disabled passengers and others with reduced mobility are treated by the air travel industry.The government’s announcement came just days after the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell (pictured) called on the government to start handing out “heavy fines” to the air travel industry when it failed to ensure its services were accessible to disabled passengers.Another disabled peer, the Liberal Democrat president, Baroness [Sal] Brinton, told peers last week how she had been left in tears after being dumped in a corner facing a concrete wall while airport staff tried to find her wheelchair following a flight from Heathrow to Madrid.The draft charter includes a plan to remove limits imposed on the compensation paid when a wheelchair is damaged during a flight; and stronger enforcement powers for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which will allow it to fine airlines and other parts of the industry that breach access regulations.There are also proposals to improve the way wheelchairs are stored during flights; to raise awareness among disabled people of airport assistance services; and to tighten standards on how long passengers should wait for their wheelchairs at the end of a flight.If the draft charter was adopted, it would also mean airlines having to make “all reasonable efforts to arrange seating to meet the needs of disabled passengers”, while some new and refurbished aeroplanes would have to include at least one accessible toilet.In addition to the passenger charter, the government is to support a working group from the industry, which will include wheelchair manufacturers, disability representatives and the CAA, to achieve the “longer term goal” of creating a system that will allow disabled passengers to “travel safely in their own wheelchairs in the aircraft cabin”.But the president of the Liberal Democrats, the disabled peer Baroness [Sal] Brinton, told DNS that the charter proposals did not go far enough.She said: “A charter places very little obligation on either the carriers or the airports to deliver.“This means that the disabled traveller will have very little recourse when things go wrong. “Baroness Sugg [the aviation minister] talked about fines for carriers and airports that fail to deliver but we haven’t yet seen how easy it will be for complaints to be made and judgements passed that actually result in fines.“The record on fines for train operating companies missing their targets has been woeful. “A charter will not be enough to change the culture and practice that results in disabled passengers being let down time after time, being treated as a piece of luggage and trapped in disabled ghettos. “We need more: we need clear standards which if missed give disabled passengers the equivalent of a delay repay* when trains are late, as well as large fines for carriers and airports if they miss wider accessibility targets.”She added: “This government is very fond of codes and charters which sound great but actually don’t change anything for the consumer because they have no teeth.“We have the same problem with the Victims Code, which sounds lovely but there is no duty on the agencies (police, criminal justice system, councils) to actually deliver it. So they don’t.” The crossbench disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell was more optimistic.Although she has not yet been able to examine the charter, because of the Brexit debate occupying both houses of parliament, she said it appeared to be “quite a big leap for the industry and realistically that’s all that can be achieved in the short term (the coming year)”.But she said industry members had now recognised that they “must up their game significantly to address the increasing flow of criticism, otherwise the bad publicity will accelerate dissatisfaction from the public at large, which in turn will damage their business, economically and image wise”.She told DNS: “I am hoping in the slightly longer term, the industry will address what we know from experience will be continuing discrimination with stronger regulations and fines.“Because if they don’t, the campaign will just increase and eventually hurt them.”After speaking to Chris Wood, the father of two disabled sons and founder of the campaign Disabled Flying, she said she believed it was necessary to capitalise on the apparent willingness of some parts of the industry to introduce a way to allow wheelchair-users to travel on aeroplanes in their own wheelchairs.And she said it was crucial that disabled people were “centrally involved” in “developing the design of the reasonable adjustments and advising on the service delivery as a whole, so that it is fit for everyone and discriminates against no-one”, and that it was time to demand “more co-production”.She suggested that disabled people should join Wood’s campaign in the absence of a successful disabled-led alternative, as he had been a “fantastic” ally to disabled people.Another crossbench disabled peer, Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, said removing limits on compensation for damaged wheelchairs would be “a step forward” and would “make some airlines think a bit”.She also said that the working group would mean that some disabled people who are currently “completely excluded” from flying might have an opportunity to do so, which she said “feels like an open door”.Baroness Grey-Thompson said there still needed to be better recognition that disabled people face “discrimination and poor treatment”, with too many passengers given the impression that their experiences are only one-offs.She said: “I think the charter is a step forward. It should be easier to sort out the problems disabled people face.“They shouldn’t have such bad experiences and be made to feel that they are an inconvenience.”A spokeswoman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “It is encouraging to see the government putting a major focus on the flying experience of disabled people, especially following the widely reported and unacceptable failures that have occurred in this space.“These recommendations are a positive step towards tackling discrimination against disabled passengers.”Nusrat Ghani, the DfT accessibility minister, said: “We need to address the fact that 57 per cent of disabled passengers say they find flying and using airports difficult.“That’s why our proposed passenger charter includes measures designed to make real changes that will improve the accessibility of flying, building on the ambitions set out in our Inclusive Transport Strategy earlier this year.“We are committed to continuing the progress the industry has already made in making the aviation network truly open to all.”*The national rail compensation scheme for unexpected delays and cancellations
SAINTS has signed 10 ten under 16s from its highly rated Academy and Scholarship Programme.They are:Brad Pinder (Hooker) – Thatto Heath Crusaders and The Sutton AcademyElliott Jenkins (Scrum Half) – Thatto heath Crusaders and Wade DeaconCameron Brown (Centre) – Thatto Heath Crusaders and Rainford High Technology CollegeKevin Brown (Fullback) – Wigan St Patricks, Thatto Heath Crusaders and DeaneryChris Follin (Second Row) – Thatto Heath Crusaders and Cowley International Language CollegeJorge Lewtas (Loose Forward) – Thatto Heath Crusaders and St Margaret’s Academy Callum Hazzard (Second Row) – Clock Face Miners and The Sutton AcademyJordan Olmez (Prop) – Thatto Heath Crusaders and St Peter and PaulEvan Bullen (Prop) – Halton Farnworth Hornets and Wade DeaconJordan Gibbons (Centre) – Orrell St James, Wigan St Patricks and Standish Community HighNeil Kilshaw, Saints Player Performance Manager, said: “These signings are just reward for the hard work and dedication demonstrated by these young men over the last two years.“Eight have signed from St Helens Community Clubs showing the strength of the community game within the town, and they are a credit to their clubs and those volunteers that have helped to develop them since a very young age.“Nine of these young men are training hard in preparation for our 2015 Australia Tour in October which is another significant learning curve in their development.“Unfortunately Evan Bullen, is unable to make the tour as he is at a critical phase of a rehabilitation programme for an injury sustained during the summer.”Saints Academy Head Coach Derek Traynor added: “These signings all have the potential to play Super League and we’re all looking forward to their exploits in Australia and then linking up with the Under 19s squad for their first pre-season!”Saints Academy was once graded as ‘Outstanding’ in the RFL’s annual accreditation review.Brad PinderCallum HazzardCameron BrownChris FollinElliott JenkinsEvan BullenJordan GibbonsJordan OlmezJorge LewtasKevin Brown
Saints wrapped up the trophy with two games to spare in a comfortable performance at the Totally Wicked Stadium.Justin Holbrook’s side led 12-0 after 15 minutes – and then sealed victory in the second half.Mark Percival crossed for his 23rd try of the season in the tenth minute when Jonny Lomax took a short pass, broke through and drew the full back.Danny Richardson converted and within a couple of minutes he was adding on another after Morgan Knowles showed great strength to plough over.But Hull FC drew level when Jordan Lane and Brad Fash scored to make it 12-12.Saints hit back just before half time through Luke Thompson and extended their lead early in the second half with a Richardson penalty.That eight-point gap gave Saints some breathing space against a committed Hull FC – and they then turned the screw.Firstly, Percival’s second came after soft hands from James Bentley.The debutant sent his centre away before Percy produced a dummy to fool the full back – and leave the whole of the Totally Wicked Stadium applauding.Saints were rampant and on their next foray into the Hull 20 metre area Barba and Grace exchanged passes, twice, for the winger to cross.Grace then added his second as he ran 60 metres from Percy’s pass and ducked under the full back for a superb try.Jack Ashworth went close as the game came to an end but Saints had done more than enough to secure their 24th Super League win of the season.Match Summary:Saints: Tries: Percival (2), Knowles, Thompson, Grace (2) Goals: Richardson (7 from 7)Hull FC: Tries: Lane, Fash Goals: Faraimo (1 from 1), Connor (1 from 1)Penalties Awarded: Saints: 5 Hull FC: 9HT: 18-12 FT: 38-12REF: C KendallATT: 9,348Teams:Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 30. Matty Costello, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 15. Morgan Knowles, 16. Luke Thompson, 24. James Bentley, 21. Jack Ashworth, 12. Jon Wilkin. Subs: 14. Luke Douglas, 20. Matty Lees, 22. Jake Spedding, 31. Jack Welsby.Hull FC: 28. Hakim Miloudi; 2. Bureta Faraimo, 30. Cameron Scott, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Fetuli Talanoa; 35. Liam Harris, 14. Jake Connor; 29. Masimbaashe Matongo, 17. Danny Washbrook, 8. Scott Taylor, 11. Dean Hadley, 26. Jordan Lane, 21. Sika Manu. Subs: 16. Jordan Abdul, 20. Brad Fash, 22. Jez Litten, 36. Lewis Bienek.
The forward was named man of the match in the side’s 16-12 win over Papua New Guinea last Saturday.Coach Paul Anderson said: “It was pleasing to secure that first win and we’re hoping we can do the same this weekend against a tough Kumuls side in Port Moresby.“This tour is about providing players with experience and development opportunities as we build towards creating the strongest England side to take part in the Rugby League World Cup 2021.“Each player that travelled with us on this tour will return home having had that once in a lifetime opportunity to represent their national side in Papua New Guinea.”England Knights:Jack Walker (Leeds Rhinos)Tom Davies (Wigan Warriors)Toby King (Warrington Wolves)Liam Sutcliffe (Leeds Rhinos)Tom Lineham (Warrington Wolves)Declan Patton (Warrington Wolves)Chris Atkin (Hull KR)Mikolaj Oledski (Leeds Rhinos)Sam Powell (Wigan Warriors)Matty Lees (St Helens)Harvey Livett (Warrington Wolves)Matt Whitley (Catalans Dragons)Jack Hughes (Warrington Wolves)Danny Walker (Warrington Wolves)Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos)Robbie Mulhern (Hull KR)Joe Philbin (Warrington Wolves)