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Nine years is too long to wait for platform safety

RNIB welcomes the fact that Network Rail is developing a policy and process to install tactile across all stations, but we feel its timeframe for completion by 2029 is not acceptable.

Countless accidents and a number of fatalities involving blind and partially sighted people falling from railway platforms have occurred within the last nine years, and we dread to think of how many more incidents could happen within another nine. Tactile paving on railway platforms is an essential safety measure that people with sight loss rely on for daily travel, this risk needs to be addressed rapidly before more lives are lost.

Tactile paving is missing in around half of all mainline stations and we’ve spent the last three months lobbying Network Rail and the Department for Transport (DfT) to urgently install it.

Our #Railsafe campaign was launched in response to a report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), published in February of this year, that looked into the death of Cleveland Gervais, a blind man who fell from a platform without tactile last year and was tragically killed as a result.

Earlier this week, Network Rail explained to us and Guide Dogs  progress on its policy and process for installing tactile across the Network. It explained that, subject to funding from DfT, its aim is to ensure all stations are updated by the end of 2029.

Lived experiences of falling from platforms without tactile

Artur Ortega spoke about how reading the RAIB report on Cleveland’s death felt like reliving his own very similar experience eight years ago. Artur fell from a platform with his guide dog Mercer. In Artur’s case, a station manager cut the power just in time to stop an oncoming train from hitting Artur and Mercer: “If the station manager hadn’t happened to be right there, I would have been hit.”

Artur added:

Eight years have passed between my accident and the person who died last year. This should have been enough time to fix the widespread issue. It makes no sense.

Ken Reid spoke about his experience “drifting too far left whilst trying to keep away from a bike shelter” due to a lack of detectable tactile paving.

He explained: “Fortunately, there was no train coming or sitting in the station. I landed on the track bed with my feet astride the rail. This was definitely more by good luck than by good planning. I simply climbed out and carried on my way, somewhat shaken.”

Another example was shared by Lynn Cox, who shared multiple experiences of falling from platforms, mentioning that it has happened with three out of the four guide dogs she has had over the years. Lynn works freelance and explained that she “dreads going to new stations in case they don’t have tactile” but need to do it anyway to get to work. 

“The first time I went down onto the track was with my guide dog. There definitely wasn’t tactile edging then. I told the dog to find the edge, but he took me over by mistake. We both landed on the tracks.”

We appreciate that despite the urgency, installing tactile across the whole network cannot happen overnight but we feel that a timeframe of nine years following Cleveland’s death is simply not urgent enough.

We are however, pleased to see the plan for prioritisation of stations where there is tactile on some platforms but not others and in addition urge DfT prioritise Network Rail’s funding requests as Network Rail have mentioned that their installation of tactile is dependant on this.

There are now more than 14,000 on our petition calling for urgent installation of tactile across all stations but you can still add your name to help us highlight the importance of this issue.