The Bergen Light Rail system is a good example of what can be achieved using a universal design approach. As with most projects this size there are detractors and resisters. But it was accessibility that brought people together to design one of the most successful town planning projects in Norway.
The rail system has brought many aspects of the city together. Not only is the light rail accessible, the whole city is more accessible now and further improvements are planned. People who said they never use public transport, now use it happily.
The key is that the inclusiveness of the design is barely noticeable. Step free access, step free carriages, automatic doors, simple displays, and effective sound and light signals are good for everyone. The architect says it is the first public transport system in Norway that utilises inclusive design at all levels.
“When the planning of the new light rail began in 2006, inclusive design was not stated as a requirement. Many regulations must be considered in a project of this scale. This led to noise and resistance from politicians in the city, which had to be overcome before the project could start. This was followed by discussions about accessibility, the locations of stops near transfer points, transfers to bus and train and step-free transitions.
A collaboration with FFO (the Norwegian Federation of Organizations of Disabled People) was established at an early stage and the design team showed them drawings and discussed the ideas with them. This collaboration inspired many new solutions.”