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RNIB calls for Government and Network Rail to firmly commit to accelerated rail safety timeline

This month is the two-year-anniversary since Cleveland Gervais’ tragic death. Cleveland, who had sight loss, died after falling from a train station platform without tactile paving.

Up to 15 per cent of people falling from platforms are blind or partially sighted. Despite being a fundamental safety measure, 40 per cent of mainline railway stations in Britain lack tactile paving, or tactile, on platforms. RNIB believes this is completely unacceptable.

The Office for Rail and Road (ORR) has published its response to the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report into Cleveland Gervais’ death. The RAIB report found the lack of tactile paving was a likely key factor in Cleveland’s death; it made a key recommendation for the Department for Transport (Dft) and Network Rail to set out a timetabled programme for completing the installation of tactile paving across the rail network.

We launched our #RailSafe campaign in response to the RAIB report, calling on Network Rail and the DfT to urgently address rail safety. Initially, we were told the rollout of tactile paving would not be completed until 2029. Last summer, we joined Cleveland’s partner, Sekha Hall, to deliver our petition - signed by 15,817 people - telling the Government and Network Rail this simply was not good enough and urging faster action.

The ORR response states Network Rail has been funded by the DfT to fit tactile paving on all railway platforms by March 2029 and they expect most of the work to be carried out by 2024-2025.

While we welcome the funding, a potential timeframe of nine years after the original incident is simply not urgent enough. It is two years since Cleveland died and there needs to be a firmer commitment from the DfT and Network Rail to prevent further tragedies and complete the installation of tactile paving on all railway platforms by 2025.

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 nine 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.”

Tactile on railway platforms is an essential measure that people with sight loss rely on to travel safely. This risk needs to be addressed rapidly to ensure that blind and partially sighted rail passengers can travel safely and independently.

We are, however, pleased that the DfT have secured ring-fenced funding for the work from the Treasury and this will be released to Network Rail once their plans are finalised and shared with the DfT.

We are also pleased to see the Rail Delivery Group, after meeting with sight loss organisations last summer including RNIB, has created audio announcements for stations to inform passengers whether there is tactile or not. This is an important interim measure to make stations safer for blind and partially sighted passengers.

We will continue to work with Guide Dogs and Disability Rights UK to push for an accelerated rollout of tactile across the rail network.