Not expensive

Eden Park station

Yesterday a report into the death of a partially-sighted man, Cleveland Gervais, who was hit and killed by a train at Eden Park station in south-east London last February was published by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), a government agency that investigates rail accidents in the UK and on the Channel Tunnel, and found that the accident could have been prevented had the station been fitted with a tactile paving strip near the platform, a standard fitting to alert blind passengers when they are near the platform edge. The organisation’s chief inspector, Simon French, said:

Although RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Branch) recognises that the immediate provision of tactile strips across the network would be very expensive, there is a need to develop a new policy to guide decision makers. … It cannot always make sense simply to wait until platforms are refurbished to install the strips.

It can’t actually be that expensive and need not wait for a full refurbishment; it’s a single strip of tiles per platform which could have been installed at any time over the past several years when the station was closed for weekend engineering or any other kind of maintenance. A Freedom of Information request revealed that a third of stations around the country, among them 79 in London including major stations in London such as Waterloo and Victoria, lack the correct tactile paving (none or only partial) and that the target for installing them on all stations is 2029. The RNIB estimate that 9-15% of falls from railway station platforms involve blind or partially sighted people and they have started a petition to get tactile paving installed quickly. It does not only help blind people but anyone who may not be conscious that they are too close to the edge, such as when the platform is crowded.

I appreciate that it cannot happen everywhere overnight but it’s not a huge job; it will take a small team a few hours’ work per platform. It’s not like installing lifts at an Underground station. That there are still a third of stations without this simple adaptation reflects lack of commitment, not cost.

Image source: Mike Quinn, via Wikipedia. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) 2.0 licence.

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