Network Rail signs agreement to prevent discrimination against disabled people

Case name: Network Rail section 23 agreement

Network Rail’s North West route entered a legally binding agreement with us after it failed to make reasonable adjustments for disabled users during a refurbishment.

Legal issue

Failure to make reasonable adjustments for disabled users

Background

While lifts were out of action during refurbishment works at Manchester Victoria station in September 2019, wheelchair users had to drag themselves up steps to access the station or use a stair-climber, which caused a number of disabled people considerable distress.

Before a refurbishment project at Manchester Victoria started, Network Rail failed to complete a Disability Impact Assessment and consult with disabled passengers or groups, to determine whether arrangements to replace the lifts were appropriate.

As a result, the assistance available was unsuitable. A lack of clear signage and communication also meant that disabled passengers were not aware of any support that was available. The EHRC considers that Network Rail breached its legal obligations to make reasonable adjustments for disabled users.

 

Why we were involved

We have long-standing commitments to improving access to transport for disabled people; it has been a key part of our three year strategic plan for 2019-2022.

For many people, public transport can be their gateway to the world. It may well be how they get to school or work. It may be how they go to hospital or how they visit friends and family.

Transport operators have clear responsibilities in law to ensure travel is just as possible for disabled people as for everyone else.

When that doesn’t happen, the impact on disabled people can be disastrous.

What we did

We worked closely with Network Rail to arrange a legal document, known as a section 23 agreement under the Equality Act 2006.

What happened

Network Rail willingly signed the agreement which means it has committed to:

 

  • Make appropriate reasonable adjustments during refurbishment projects, following consultation and agreement with user groups and stakeholders;
  • Ensure that a Diversity Impact Assessment is carried out at an early stage of every refurbishment project life-cycle;
  • Implement a new Communications Plan to ensure that clear, concise and timely communications accompany lift renewal schemes in order to minimise the impact to passengers of reduced mobility.

Who will benefit and how

By signing this agreement, Network Rail has committed to improve its efforts to protect disabled people from discrimination when carrying out improvement works in stations, and we hope it prevents anyone experiencing the upsetting scenes at Manchester Victoria.

We will monitor Network Rail’s progress, to make sure the agreed actions are completed.

Date of outcome

“Last year we replaced the lifts at Manchester Victoria station. Lack of available lift engineers forced led to us closing all three lifts at the same time during this work. This was the wrong thing to do and we are deeply sorry for the distress and inconvenience this caused mobility-assisted passengers.

“We’ve learnt from this and have worked collaboratively with the EHRC to put plans in place to consult with mobility-assisted passengers in advance of any future accessibility improvements at North West stations.”

Phil James, North West route director

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