Disabled rail travellers’ handling during Storm Dudley vs Storm Eunice

Back in 2022, Dominic Lund-Conlon / Rail Delivery Group instructed the rail industry to stop / cancel all disabled people’s booked assistance during Storm Eunice. – for trains that continued to run, and including an entire country (Scotland) that was not disrupted by the southerly track of the storm.

Photo of Dominic Lund-Conlon; waitcoat and tie wearing slim white man with dark hair, in front of the London Eye.

(Nearly all train operating companies (TOCs) sensibly ignored him and his instruction, but he incorrectly told the Office of Rail Regulation that they were all cancelling assistance bookings anyway, presumably on the mistaken assumption that TOCs followed his order.)

The above was revealed through Freedom of Information Requests for emails sent via the shadowy rail accessibility e-list maintained by Rail Delivery Group.

Today, two years later, after fighting through the internal review and Scottish Information Commissioner process (for two years!) Scotrail has belatedly released some more emails from the same list. They revealed how train operating companies responded to assistance requests during the “Do Not Travel” instruction issued for Storm Dudley—a storm a few days before Storm Eunice.

Compare and contrast:

Storm Dudley correspondence, 16th February 2022

  • (Scotrail) “As a precaution, should we not have something on the Passenger Assist platforms warning people to only travel if “absolutely necessary” in response to storm Dudley!”
  • (Greater Anglia) “I think (Scotrail) raises a very good point here, how we are communicating severe disruption through PA and any network wide ‘do not travel notices’? Addressing the issue of agile timetable changes and notifications is going to become more pertinent with the reduced notification period for booking assistance.”
  • (RDG) “It’s a good question – how would you have done this previously, please, in other storms?”
  • (Scotrail) “In the passenger assist app, it should be possible to put information to alert customers of the storm and the timetable reduction planned for by 4 pm and almost no services from 1800hrs.
    Additionally, we used to be able to put alert information on the landing page for new bookings for advisors so that they are cautions on taking bookings that later on become difficult to deliver.”

Storm Eunice correspondence,  17th February 2022

  • (RDG) “This is a pre-alert – I’m shortly to be sending you some urgent information about the next 72 hours and the incoming storm. Please be advised that there will be some clear comms regarding do not travel advice for Friday within that email.
    In relation to this, there will likely be a need to contact customers who have requested assistance for travel on Friday.”
  • (GTR) “Appreciate urgent guidance on this so the advice we provide to our booked customers is consistent with industry ie whether we should refuse a booking if there is a general ‘Do not travel’ message in place?”
  • (RDG) “If “Do Not Travel” is in place, then you can’t offer journeys that you are actively telling all customers not to make.
    I will email the ORR to set out the situation if the group would like me to?”
  • (GTR) “Getting ORR confirmation asap would be much appreciated.”
  • (RDG to ORR) “At present, all train operators are undertaking proactive contact with customers who are booked to travel on Friday to rearrange their planned journeys. Alongside this, members will be not accepting any new booking requests from customers”

Consistency…

Given the discriminatory impact of any decision to cancel disabled people’s assistance requests, one would have hoped that the RDG would follow the procedure and practice set up for this purpose.

It turns out there was no such procedure, which I can only see as a lack of foresight and a failure in the responsibility of RDG, its Accessibility and Inclusion Manager (AIM) Dominic Lund-Conlon, and its train operating company members.

The result: RDG, through its puppet AIM, made up poorly thought out orders on the spot to cancel all disabled people’s assistance across the UK for trains that continued to run, including in areas unaffected by the storm, which was treated with the requisite contempt by nearly all train operating companies.

What a Dog’s dinner.

It is a disgrace that disabled people’s right to travel is at the whim of this clown organisation and its cock-sure yes-man.

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