Accessible transport

Supporting detail:

Accessible transport for all

Access to trains

The government is committed to providing an accessible rail system which offers disabled people the same opportunities to travel as other people. The Railways for all strategy explains what Britain’s railway industry is doing to improve access for disabled people.

The Equality Act 2010 requires all station operators to take reasonable steps to ensure that they do not discriminate against disabled people. This document provides guidance to all station operators so that they continue to improve access to their services.

Rail stations

What is judged as good access for all passengers today may not be in the future, so station operators need to continually review the accessibility of their station. This document contains information on the standards required for infrastructure work at stations:

Each passenger train and station operator must have an operating licence, issued by the Office of Rail Regulation. These licences include a condition that requires operators (including Network Rail in respect of the stations it operates) to establish and comply with a Disabled People’s Protection Policy. The Disabled People’s Protection Policy outlines how they will protect the interests of disabled users of their trains and stations:

Access for All programme

Launched as part of The Railways for All Strategy in 2006, Access for All funding is being used to provide an accessible route at more than 150 of the our busiest inaccessible stations by 2015. The work is being carried out by Network Rail.

For more information about work at stations in England and Wales please contact railwaysforall@dft.gsi.gov.uk. For information about projects in Scotland please contact Transport Scotland.

We have recently announced a further £100 million to extend the programme to 2019. We will be working with the transport industry and local authorities during 2013 to select stations for the extended programme.


Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations have applied to all new rail vehicles entering service in Great Britain since 31 December 1998. They standardised the requirements to meet the needs of disabled passengers. This includes, for example, providing access for wheelchair users, the size and location of handrails, handholds and control devices as well as providing passenger information systems and other equipment. The Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Non Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2010 (RVAR 2010) have now replaced the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998 (RVAR 1998).

However, on 1 July 2008, a new European standard came into force - the technical specification for interoperability for persons with reduced mobility (PRM TSI). The PRM TSI applies to all trains used on the interoperable rail system, which comprises the major lines of all Network Rail infrastructure. It sets standards for accessible trains, stations and other facilities.

To avoid having two different sets of standards (European and British), the Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008 removed those trains subject to the PRM TSI from the scope of RVAR 1998 but ensured that there remained a requirement to maintain and operate them to the standards to which they were built, ie RVAR.

RVAR 2010 remains as the accessibility standard to which light rail vehicles (those used on metro, underground and tram systems) are built.

As well as new rail vehicles, RVAR 2010 and the PRM TSI also apply to older rail vehicles (those introduced prior to 1999) when they undergo refurbishment (for non-heavy rail, and heavy rail respectively).

All rail vehicles, both heavy and light rail, must be accessible by no later than 1 January 2020.

Working towards 2020

While the latest fleets of trains are fully compliant with accessibility requirements, there are still trains in service that are not fully compliant. It’s too expensive to withdraw and update these trains, so effort is being concentrated on those non-compliances which truly prevent disabled people from accessing trains.

We are working on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the rail industry and the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), to identify those areas, such as passenger information systems, where compliance by 2020 will be required. Details about targeted compliance on heavy rail fleets is available.

While an accessible rail fleet will be achieved by 1 January 2020, it is likely that a small number of trains will not fully comply with the PRM TSI or RVAR by that time. It’s inevitable that some exemptions will remain necessary and we are working with the rail industry and DPTAC to keep these to a minimum.

There is a list of those rail vehicles which were built, or have been fully refurbished, to modern access standards in the following publication:

For more information, please contact us at railvehicleaccess@dft.gsi.gov.uk.


Rail vehicle/platform gaps

Disability discrimination legislation has resulted in significantly more accessible trains and stations. While there is still much to do, the Department for Transport was conscious that the gap between the train and platform remained a potential barrier to disabled passengers, amongst others.

To gain a better understanding of this problem, a research study was commissioned. The purpose of the research was to establish from a user’s perspective what constituted an acceptable gap and step and to provide recommendations for the future.

Audible warnings

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998 require a distinct sound to be emitted when a train door can be opened and when it is about to close. This is intended to help visually impaired passengers find the door, let them know when it can be opened, and to warn them when it is about to close. This research is intended to establish whether this requirement helps people, and if it does, the best location and duration of the warning.

Publications and other resources