While the government's new rail plan is a step in the right direction in renovating and updating our railways, the government must proceed with caution and consider the implications of its new policies on all members of society, says Amy Czuba, senior account manager at UX design agency, Nexer Digital.
Although the plan sets out steps to modernise current processes to make railway journeys fully accessible, more digitally-led parts of the proposal need to be installed with consideration over the impact this will have on those who may struggle with or even rely on technology.
It is imperative for the government to make the relevant adjustments to all their new services, such as making sure it involves provisions for those who are visually or physically impaired so that they can benefit from new systems. For example, the new single ticketing platform must make adequate considerations for users of all abilities and digital literacies, as well as those that don't have access to smartphones or the internet.
This commitment to accessibility has been a long time coming, as Brits with disabilities still face constant challenges over access to public transport, as over 7% of stations across the UK still do not have wheelchair access. Despite the fact that public transport offers an important lifeline to those who can't drive and rely on it to complete everyday tasks.
Additionally, further updates to our railway systems need to include introducing a basic level of accessibility requirement for all rail stock and stations to remove the anxiety some feel ahead of travelling to a new place and discovering there are not adequate accessibility options.
The UK rail network has continued to be severely lagging behind the level of accessibility it should provide, with 800 trains not making the 1st January 2020 deadline for audio-visual information systems, easy to use handrails and handholds as well as an accessible toilet.
And it has not avoided falling foul in the digital world too. Learning from recent digital accessibility blunders, including the greyscale Prince Phillip tribute, is key for increasing awareness of digital accessibility. The new network should have ambitions of becoming an example of best practice across the wider industry.
The pandemic continues to shine a light over the cracks in our railway system and how it has failed to prioritise those who are likely to need it the most. The government should take this opportunity to start fresh and remove all barriers for disabled members of society or further risk isolating those who rely on these services the most.