Does Rail Transport Discriminate? - Ensuring access to rail for people with reduced mobility -
60 million people with reduced mobility across Europe face daily discrimination because railway systems are not adapted to their needs. At a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) workshop, participants concluded that to meet the transport needs of this growing group of potential passengers, governments must implement the necessary legislation while the railway industry must invest in the right infrastructure, rolling stock and practices.
Rail travel is particularly useful for persons with reduced mobility (older persons, people with small children and others with mobility handicaps) because it provides city centre connections and it is considered a less stressful way of traveling than for example air travel.
Key issues facing people with reduced mobility include:
* Lack of information about accessible stations and trains
* Poor access at stations
* Low platforms which mean steep steps to board
* Poor access on the train
* Lack of assistance at the station and on the train
“There is a strong correlation between age and disability: over half the population of 75 and above will have some kind of disability”, said Ann Frye, a leading expert on the issue and a participant in the workshop. “By 2015 older people, many of them women, will account for 19% of Europe’s population, or some 95 million people. Retaining independent mobility for this group of people is both an economic and a social imperative.”
The UNECE Transport Division teamed up with the UNECE Population Unit, with support from the International Transport Forum (ITF) and the Austrian Government, to explore the various aspects of and vested interests in the topic. Government officials and representatives from the rail industry as well as interest groups came together during the Working Party on Rail Transport (SC.2) to debate further steps needed at political, policy and technical levels.
“A large legal framework already exists, both at national level and at the European level, that cater to people with reduced mobility”, said Eva Molnar, Director of UNECE Transport Division. “We now need to see it not only implemented but mainstreamed into existing and future practices.”
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