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Railways: Disabled

Transport written question – answered on 20th April 2009.

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Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many and what proportion of the trains of each train operator which were in operation in each year since 1997 were accessible to people in wheelchairs; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The majority of trains have been accessible to wheelchair users for many years, although the proportion that meet modern accessibility standards has increased dramatically since the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (RVAR) (SI 1998/2456) were introduced in 1998. The RVAR considerably improve the accessibility of rail vehicles to disabled people by setting minimum technical standards designed to make trains more accessible to disabled people, including wheelchair users.

Almost 4,800 train carriages have been built in compliance with RVAR, while almost all older vehicles have featured improved accessibility, including for wheelchair users, when they have undergone refurbishment. A list of all trains that were built in compliance with RVAR and their current operator is available on the Department for Transport's website:

www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/rail/vehicles/pubs/rva/accessibilityregulations.xls)

However, as rolling stock is frequently moved between different train operating companies, the Department does not keep a historical record of where these rail vehicles have previously been in service.

The UK's lead in this area resulted last year in the introduction of new pan-European accessibility standards (the Technical Specification of Interoperability for Persons with Reduced Mobility—PRM TSI) which are based on RVAR. In future, all heavy rail trains will be subject to the PRM TSI, while tram, underground and metro systems will remain subject to RVAR.

In 2008, the Department set an end date of 1 January 2020, by which time all trains must be accessible. This is some 15 years earlier than would occur naturally through normal fleet replacement and we are already working closely with the rail industry to deliver this commitment.

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