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train on a shadowy platform at London Victoria

Tactile paving should be installed on London rail platforms Assembly rules

A motion to increase rail safety for the blind and visually impaired by supporting the introduction of tactile paving on all London platforms was unanimously passed by the London Assembly earlier this month. 

The motion calls for Sadiq Khan to apply pressure on Network Rail’s Chair Peter Hendy and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to guarantee that all platforms will have tactile markings within the next four years and to put a timetable in place.  

It comes after partially sighted Cleveland Gervais, 53, was killed by a train in February 2020 when he fell off a platform edge at Eden Park station in Beckenham.

Gervais “probably” fell because he was unaware he was close to the edge due to the lack of tactile paving, a report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) found in February.  

Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon forwarded the motion after her FOI request revealed that, as of July 2020, a third of British train station platforms did not have tactile strips.

These stations included some platforms at Clapham Junction, Mortlake and Waterloo.  

Pidgeon said: “It is nothing less than a scandal that one third of train platforms in London and around the country are so unsafe, especially for blind and visually impaired people.

“The ability to travel safely and independently is a basic right. The vital importance of tactile paving has been overlooked for far too long by the rail industry with sadly fatal consequences.

“Sadly for Cleveland and everyone who knew him we cannot turn back the clock, but we can at least determine the time that our train stations are finally much safer.

“We now need to ensure urgent action is taken.”

The RAIB report also revealed that up to 15% of people falling on railway tracks are blind or partially sighted. 

While tactile paving was installed at Eden Park station after Gervais’s death, stations like Waterloo still have a number of platforms without the markings.  

Under current plans, Network Rail aims to have tactile paving on all operational platforms by 2029.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said this is not quick enough and is petitioning the Department of Transport and Network Rail to create a timetable urgently for national tactile paving installation. 

RINB policy officer Roisin Jacklin said: “Network Rail’s current timetable for completion is really concerning as it leaves a lot of blind and partially sighted people at real risk.

“We were delighted to see Caroline’s motion pass as it’s an issue that is so important to us.

“It’s a really important step forward and that support is fantastic.”

In the meantime, RNIB said that Gervais’s partner Sehka is advocating for stations to introduce announcements with information about whether platforms have tactile paving or not.  

RNIB’s petition can be signed here

Featured image credit: Sunil060902 on Wikimedia under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

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