Call for safer railway stations after visually impaired passenger’s death

Sekha Hall, partner of Cleveland Gervais, and RNIB director of development, Keith Valentine (RNIB/PA).
18:55pm, Wed 21 Jul 2021
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Campaigners have called for railway stations to be made safer for people with sight impairments following the death of a passenger who fell from a platform last year.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) handed a petition signed by 15,000 people to Network Rail and the Department for Transport on Wednesday demanding improvements be made to help the blind and visually impaired know where platforms end.

It follows the death of Cleveland Gervais, 53, who died at Eden Park station in south London in February 2020.

A report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said the fall was due to a lack of “tactile paving” at the edge of the platform – paving that has a raised surface profile and so can be detected by sighted and visually impaired pedestrians.

The RNIB petition called for tactile paving to be installed across all railway platforms in Great Britain sooner than the 2029 timeframe currently being worked on by Network Rail.

Safety at railway stations must be urgently addressed so no other blind or partially sighted person’s life is cruelly cut short, like my partner Cleveland's was

Sekha Hall, Cleveland Gervais’ partner, said: “Safety at railway stations must be urgently addressed so no other blind or partially sighted person’s life is cruelly cut short, like my partner Cleveland’s was.

“We can’t wait until 2029 for platform safety, the rollout of tactile must be sped up and safety measures, including audio announcements, need to be in place now where tactile isn’t currently installed.”

RNIB director of development, Keith Valentine, who handed in the petition with Ms Hall, said: “As a registered blind rail user, it is staggering that despite being a fundamental safety measure, only around half of mainline railway stations have tactile edging.

“Network Rail and the Department for Transport must act urgently to address this appalling situation by installing tactile paving and making all railway stations accessible, so blind and partially sighted people can travel safely and independently.”

It’s a monumental task but one we are working very closely with our regional teams, ministers, suppliers and train operators to finish as soon as we can

Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety for Network Rail, said: “We know how important an issue tactile paving is to many passengers using our railways, which is why we are accelerating our programme for installation.

“More than 400km of tactile paving has to be installed on thousands of platforms to complete the job.

“It’s a monumental task but one we are working very closely with our regional teams, ministers, suppliers and train operators to finish as soon as we can.”

The report published by the RAIB also found that there are “significantly higher levels of risk” for blind and partially sighted people at railway stations, compared with non-blind and partially sighted people.

People with sight loss make up 15% of people who fall from station platforms, according to the RAIB.

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