Mind the gap in rail travel

A large crowded entrance hall of a railway station showing shops as well as lots of people.We all want the same things from rail travel. Value for money, getting a seat, and arriving on time. But some of us need a bit more than this. Step-free access, accessible information, accessible toilets, and easy ticket purchase.  

The Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation report is based on an international study of public transport systems in five countries. The aim was to identify good practise and issues yet to have solutions. The executive summary reports:

    • Many people with disability experienced abuse and discrimination from both passengers and staff.
    • Easy access to reliable information was critical for planning a journey.
    • There is a considerable difference between urban and rural areas when it comes to accessibility.

The title of the report is, Rail travel and disability: an international perspective on accessibility. 

Rail carriages and universal design

In the train carriage, a woman is seated in a manual wheelchair and is sitting next to a man in a standard seat. They are looking at an in-seat screen, probably for movies.A new design guide for accessible inter-city train carriages covers just about everything you need to know. Oregon State University comprehensively researched design options for making passenger trains universally designed. Their findings are reported in Inclusive Universal Accessible Design Guidelines for Next Gen Passenger Rail. With the age of passengers increasing, they recognise the need for improved access for everyone.

The guide has a lot of technical data to support the design options. Wheeled mobility devices and assistance animals are the focus, along with other groups. The trade-off between a larger restroom and the number of wheeled devices in a carriage doesn’t always mean a loss of seating for others. Folding seats are an option and they recognise that some wheelchair users will transfer to a regular seat. The lounge or buffet cars can be universally designed, but sleeper cars, however, were not included in this research.  

A good article for anyone involved in the design of rail infrastructure. Lots of detailed technical information including restroom fittings, public address systems and emergency procedures. Diagrams of layouts help with design explanations. While this document is based on USA requirements, it has relevance elsewhere.

Some newer Australian long distance trains have embraced inclusive design for all passengers. The image is from Queensland Rail.

The Transportation section of this website has more articles, research and guides.

Train station platform edge with the words in yellow, "Mind the gap".