Making Rail Accessible: Office of Rail and Road

A picture of an older woman being assisted off a train via a ramp. There are four men assisting her.
Office of Rail and Road
7 Jul 2022

RiDC, working with the Office of Rail and Road, has produced two reports on disabled passengers' experiences of using Turn Up and Go at stations and the accessibility of train operators' websites. 

Accessible Travel Policy Implementation - Review of unbooked assistance and Help Points

ORR commissioned RiDC to carry out a mystery shopping audit by disabled passengers on their experience of travelling from 147 staffed and unstaffed accessible stations. The audits highlighted the need for passengers to feel confident that they will be able to request assistance on arrival at an unstaffed station 'Turn Up and Go', such as via a HelpPoint, The findings will help inform ORR's targeted work on the reliability of assistance.

Many positives emerged from this exercise. For example, Help Point operators in the main were helpful and tried to understand our auditors’ needs and travel plans. Where auditors did interact with staff (and the public), their experiences were predominately positive.

“The conductor got off the train first, as promised, and immediately saw me with my stick and case and came to find out what help I needed and where I was going. Then helped me to my seat and put my case on the luggage rack just beside me.”

Aviemore, ScotRail

Read the full report 

Accessibility review of train operating companies (TOCs) websites

Many passengers rely on operators’ websites to access the information they need to plan their journeys. RiDC was commissioned a carry out a follow-up to ORR's 2020 review of website accessibility, which included a technical audit, accessibility information audit and user testing by 30 members of our consumer panel.

We found that many operators are now close to full compliance with the AA standard of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (2.1) and 13 operators now meet minimum requirements for the scope of accessibility information provided, compared to none in ORR's previous review. Overall, while there is scope for further improvement, ORR welcomes the progress that has been made. 

Read the summary report

Four key headlines emerge from the review:

  1. Performance has significantly improved since the first review in 2020. In particular, the design elements scored well (see point 2). There is however still some room for improvement to ensure that assistive technology works correctly.
  2. Many design elements of TOC websites such as consistency of look and feel, easy to understand and navigation, and the use of plain and understandable language scored well across TOCs.
  3. There is a difference in results concerning the failure of website elements supporting interaction with assistive technology, such as screen readers. Assistive technology is largely reliant on HTML labels being correctly applied, otherwise, problems occur such as not being able to enter station information or dates without using workarounds.
  4. The connection between all three research channels was noticeable. Performance in the WCAG and /or ATP audits was typically reflected in the user testing. Poor results are present throughout the research channels, and good results likewise are consistent across the channels.

“So professional and the homepage was so easy to navigate, not overcrowded and both clear and concise headings in correct colours and size, which made it so much easier as a disabled passenger.”

Panel member with cognitive impairments [Greater Anglia]