Accessibility of Trains

May 8, 2018 | Assembly Business | 0 comments

Plenary 8th May 2018

13:30
Watch on Senedd TV
Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Will the First Minister make a statement on the accessibility of trains for persons of reduced mobility?

Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones AM

Title: First Minister of Wales Party: Welsh Labour

Yes. By 31 December of next year, all trains must include provisions for people of reduced mobility, in line with European Union and United Kingdom Government standards. And the procurement documents for the Wales and borders rail services contract will mandate compliance with people of reduced mobility standards.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks for that. We know that we are going to have a new train operator in Wales from next year. The problem is that the new operator may not be able to get new rolling stock for perhaps four years, so it could be that, in order to comply with that legislation that you stated, we may have a tactic of the new train operator having to, or believing they have to, leave toilets locked up on the trains, meaning that nobody can use them. Do you see that as a potential problem for the new franchisee?

Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones AM

Title: First Minister of Wales Party: Welsh Labour

No, under no circumstances will toilets be allowed to be locked.

Russell George AM

Conservative, Montgomeryshire

First Minister, one of the frustrations for disabled passengers is that many trains only have a single wheelchair space, which is too often taken up by pushchairs or luggage. Now, I’ve been informed that, in Australia, a whole carriage is dedicated to those passengers with reduced mobility, where there are additional spaces for wheelchair users. Can you outline a bit more detail on how the next rail franchise will cater for the needs of those with reduced mobility?

Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones AM

Title: First Minister of Wales Party: Welsh Labour

Well, we wouldn’t want a situation where those people who are in wheelchairs are effectively segragated — and the Member is not suggesting that, in fairness. It’s hugely important that people are able to travel on all sections of the train. Coming back to the point I made earlier on, the technical specification, as I said, will need to be complied with by 31 December next year. I can say that agreements are already in place to modify a significant proportion of the existing rolling stock, and plans are in place to deal with the pacer train. Some of the existing fleet already meets the compliance requirements, but, by the end of next year, all of them will have to.

Adam Price AM

Plaid, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

I’d be grateful if the Minister — the First Minister — could just clarify: has the Welsh Government requested in its specification from the bidders that all trains in the metro will have toilet facilities which are compliant with the new rules on board?

Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones AM

Title: First Minister of Wales Party: Welsh Labour

What I can say is that we’re considering a number of options at the moment. If the trains don’t have —[Interruption.] Well, if the trains don’t have toilets on board, then we would expect the operator to provide very-much-enhanced services at stations, in order to ensure that people feel comfortable when they are travelling. There are, of course, examples of metro services elsewhere — such as Greater Manchester—where there are no toilets on board, and quite often there are no facilities for passengers who wish to use a toilet. That is not what we want; we want to make sure that people are able to access toilet facilities as easily as possible.

Rhianon Passmore AM

Rhianon Passmore AM

Party: Welsh Labour

First Minister, Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates has been proactive in setting out the Welsh Government’s ambitions for rolling stock fit for a twenty-first century rail network. In July last year, Ken Skates stated, and I quote, ‘I’ve made no secret of the difficulty in adding good quality rolling stock in Wales’. And it’s been absolutely clear that the next franchise, the Welsh Government’s first, must have the passenger at its heart. First Minister, this commitment of the Welsh Labour Government can be evidenced by Wales being selected by Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles as the new location for its new centre of excellence for the manufacture of UK rolling stock. What opportunities, in the First Minister’s opinion, will £30 million of investment, and the creation of 300 high-calibre jobs in a facility that assembles, tests, and commissions new railway vehicles, afford the railway industry, to ensure the accessibility of trains for persons of reduced mobility in Wales?

Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones AM

Title: First Minister of Wales Party: Welsh Labour

Very much so. This is one of the biggest public transport projects outside of London. It will utilise, of course, some of the existing lines that are already there. They’re all heavy rail at the moment — we’ll need to see which will remain as heavy rail, which will be converted to light rail, which new routes would then be rolled out using light rail, alongside some of the existing routes that have rail tracks on them but haven’t been used for many, many years. These are all matters that are being considered as part of the franchise tendering process.