Improving disabled access in transport infrastructure

31 August 2012  •  Author(s): Fathi Tarada, Tunnel Safety Expert, Managing Director of Mosen Ltd and Eurotransport Editorial Board Member

Major infrastructure projects in Europe are increasingly integrating the requirements of persons with reduced mobility into the early stages of their design. For example, significant investment is earmarked for step-free access for a number of major surface stations within the Crossrail West scheme on the outskirts of London. New lifts and overbridges are being planned by Network Rail, in order to facilitate access to all platforms in stations such as West Drayton and Maidenhead. Such infrastructure works will benefit a wide range of people including mothers with prams as well as a wide range of people with disabilities.

The definition of disability is wide and encomp – asses persons of limited mobility, hearing and vision. It includes the elderly, infirm and wheelchair users. The infrastructure and facilities provided by transport networks should therefore go further than just providing wheelchair access, and should include aural and visual information systems, including induction loops; appropriate warning surfaces at the top and bottom of stairs and at platform edges; and alternative access arrangements where physical barriers make it impossible or difficult to use the service.

Considering the aging nature of European societies, the proportion of people with disabilities is significant and rising. For example, it is currently estimated that 4,600,000 people have walking difficulties in the UK, and 800,000 of these people use a wheelchair.

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