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Disabled passengers fight staff cuts

25 June 2013

TSSA supported the recent Action for Rail meeting in Parliament and protest at Kings Cross to coincide with the publication of a new report looking at the impact of railway staff cuts on disabled and older passengers.

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‘What does the future of railway staffing mean for disabled and older passengers?’ has been produced in partnership with Transport for All, the National Pensioners Convention and Disabled People Against Cuts and includes findings from a new survey of disabled passengers commissioned by Action for Rail.

The survey has some startling findings showing the huge value that disabled passengers place on staff being available on trains and at stations. 39 per cent of disabled passengers say that they rely on staff assistance to be able to travel; a further 32 per cent said they found it helpful.

Given the benefits that staffing brings, from an added sense of safety to physical help getting on and off trains, it is little wonder that over
75 per cent of those surveyed said the loss of staff would make train travel difficult. Over a third said it would deter them making some journeys or make travel impossible.

A particularly worrying finding from the survey was that over a quarter (27 per cent) said they had been abused or suffered a hate crime while using the railways, jumping to over 40 per cent for those who use wheelchairs – something deterred by the presence of staff.

Yet the drastic staffing cuts proposed in the McNulty Review, endorsed by both the government and rail operators, indicates that we could lose up to 7,000 guards and other non-driver staff on trains, 5,000 station and platform staff, 2,000 ticket office staff and 675 ticket offices completely.

The action day included a lively debate at parliament, hosted by Labour’s Jack Dromey MP, at which Junior Transport Minister Norman Baker also spoke. Norman Baker reiterated the government’s commitment to the equalities and accessibility agenda – but got short shrift from disabled rights activists angry that his rhetoric was not borne out by the impending cuts to station staffing. TSSA sponsored MP Julie Hilling gave a powerful speech to the 70 or so people at the meeting. Strident contributions from TSSA front line ticket office members, including TSSA president Mick Carney, really rammed home the message that rail staff and passengers are totally united on this issue.
Turning anger to action, many went from the meeting to Kings Cross for an action, photo call and mini rally. TSSA’s strategy of organising alongside passengers demonstrated its strength at this event, as campaigners from a variety of disability rights groups joined the rail unions for the demo.

TSSA member, and recently selected Labour Parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown, Nancy Platts joined the demonstration. She said, ‘Public transport should be there for everyone. It is a scandal that people with disabilities are once again being forced to fight for basic services that others can take for granted. By cutting staff at stations, rail companies are taking away a public service from people with disabilities and dodging their duty under the Disability Discrimination Act. Rail companies need to giet their act together.’

For more information, see www.actionforrail.org/?p=491

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