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Translink paves the way

RNIB in Northern Ireland is praising Translink for ensuring tactile pavements exist across all its train stations and platforms to ensure the safety of its blind and partially sighted rail users.

Image: Three men standing on a Northern Ireland platform, one with a guide dog

The comments come after RNIB in England delivered a petition signed by 15,817 people, calling for tactile paving to be urgently installed across the British rail network after the death of a man with sight loss in London.

The petition was submitted to the Network Rail and the Department for Transport on 21 July 2021 after RNIB launched a campaign following the tragic death of Cleveland Gervais who fell from a platform without tactile paving in south-east London last year.

Colum Delaney, Policy and Campaigns Officer, RNIB NI, said: “Tactile paving enables blind and partially sighted passengers to know where the end of the platform is and it's vital that all train stations must be made safe for blind and partially sighted people, so no other lives are put unnecessarily at risk.

“Up to 15 per cent of people falling from platforms are blind or partially sighted. Despite being a fundamental safety measure which people with sight loss rely on to keep a safe distance from the platform edge, around half of mainline railway stations in Britain lack tactile paving. This is completely unacceptable, and we commend Translink for already having this vital safety measure in place to ensure the safety of local blind and partially sighted passengers.”

Tony Barclay, who sits on RNIB NI’s Action and Advisory Committee, is a guide dog owner and regular train user. Tony said: “I travel both in Northern Ireland via Translink and on rail services in England, especially in London. The difference between the two is distinctive, and it is clear that Translink is exemplary in its understanding and support of visually impaired people, a fact I have reiterated to RNIB head office staff and consumer groups.

“I encourage them to look closely at the Translink examples as an excellent example of how to work harmoniously, considerately and ensuring the safety of all service users.” 

Terry Butler, Accessibility Manager, Translink said: “Translink is committed to delivering a modern, accessible integrated transport network that meets the needs of everyone. The use of tactile paving on station platforms is just one simple initiative to improve the journey experience for passengers with vision impairment.  

“Over recent years we've been actively improving our fleet, facilities, passenger information and staff training to help everyone use public transport as an active, healthier and greener travel choice.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with RNIB and will continue to drive improvements for the benefit of everyone.”

Installing tactile pavements across its stations is just one example of how the NI rail provider is ensuring the needs of rail users with sight loss are being met both at stations and halts and in the education of all its operational staff members.

Last year, Translink circulated RNIB’s best practice guidance to all staff members and used it as part of ongoing staff training.

Translink has been enlisting the help of RNIB service users in producing a new app that will make it easier for blind and partially sighted people to navigate Translink stations and make the booking process more user-friendly as well. The app is still in the design phase.

Furthermore, RNIB and Translink are exploring work placement opportunities for participants of RNIB’s employment programme Eye Work Too. 

Colum Delaney added: “We are proud that the 56,400 people with sight loss in Northern Ireland can feel safe when using public transport and are calling for all UK transport networks to follow Translink’s exemplary actions.”