The independent chair of the Williams Rail Review has told the Transport Select Committee that the level of accessibility in UK railway stations is currently unknown.
Keith Williams made the statement when he gave oral evidence to the Transport Select Committee regarding the progress of the review commissioned earlier this year to recommend appropriate organisational and commercial frameworks to support the government’s vision for the railway.
In a wide-ranging examination, Mr Williams was asked questions about accessibility for disabled passengers in the UK.
He said that the review has looked at accessibility and the issues surrounding this, describing it as a “learning exercise” and the findings as a “surprise.”
In particular, he said that a station is deemed accessible even if only one platform fits the criteria.
Mr Williams continued: “Obviously, that does not help you if you are making the return journey, and equally does not help you if you are going from point A, which you do not know is accessible, to point B, which is accessible.
“That was very basic learning for me in terms of, “Hey, what we really need to do to start with is to understand what the accessibility is at our stations today.” We have 2,500 stations. We do not really know the level of accessibility that exists today. That is a piece of work we could do very quickly.”
Elsewhere in his evidence, Mr Williams called for an “independent guiding mind” for the rail industry so that there would be a level of accountability that has been previously lacking.
He said: “There needs to be someone accountable for rail – track and train – and the running of the network.
“From everything the public have been saying they do want this to work as a network.”
The “guiding mind,” which should be a body that will contract out services and be ultimately responsible for track and trains, is not thought to include Network Rail as a consideration.
Network Rail is not being considered for this power, it has been confirmed.