Sir George joined disability rights campaigners, train company staff, and rail passengers to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Disabled Persons Railcard at a reception in the Houses of Parliament last Thursday.
The reception heard from Transport Minister Norman Baker MP; Sir Bert Massie, one of the founders of the Railcard and an old friend of Sir George's; and from the Chief Executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), Michael Roberts.
Sir George also welcomed new figures released by ATOC, which manages the Railcard, showing that record numbers of people with disabilities are getting about by train, with 3.5 million trips made last year.
Launched in 1981, the Railcard was the first of its kind in Europe and offers cardholders and a friend or companion travelling with them 1/3 off the cost of most train tickets on the National Rail network. Journeys made using the Railcard have more than doubled in the last 15 years.
On average last year, Disabled Persons Railcard holders made 29 journeys and saved £99 on rail travel. If they had held a Railcard since 1981, on average they would have saved almost £2,500 and travelled more than 40,000 miles.
As well as the savings offered for disabled passengers, train companies attribute the continuing rise in numbers to significant improvements in facilities and services on trains.
Examples of major changes and developments include:
- In 2009, ATOC launched Stations Made Easy, an interactive web guide showing access facilities and layouts of all 2,500 stations in Britain, the first such tool of its kind for a railway network.
- A national training DVD to improve the quality and delivery of disability awareness training for rail staff – ‘Everything you wanted to know about disability but were afraid to ask’.
- An improved system for booking and delivering support to passengers who need help when travelling – Passenger Assist – which takes advantage of improvements in technology and delivers booking confirmations to passengers.
- Collaboration with Department for Transport and Network Rail to secure major improvements to station access across the rail network.
“With more than three and a half million trips made using the Disabled Persons Railcard last year, it’s clear what an important contribution it makes to the lives of so many people with disabilities.
“I know that many people in North West Hants rely on their Railcard. That’s why I was delighted to wish it a happy 30th birthday and to congratulate ATOC and train companies on their record breaking year.”
Michael Roberts, ATOC Chief Executive, said:
“I was very pleased Sir George was able to join us to celebrate this occasion. Train companies are committed to responding to passengers’ needs and will continue to work closely with local MP's, disability charities and support groups to improve services even further in Hampshire and across the country.
“Accessible public transport plays a key role in allowing disabled people to lead an independent life, so it’s good news that more and more people are taking advantage of the Disabled Persons Railcard.”
Notes to editors
• The Disabled Persons Railcard allows you to get 1/3 off most rail fares throughout Britain, and if the holder is travelling with an adult companion he or she can also get 1/3 off their rail fare. For more information, visit www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk. The Disabled Persons Railcard is run by train companies. The card is targeted at those disabled passengers who face the greatest difficulty when travelling.
• Figures for journeys and savings made by travelling with a Disabled Persons Railcard come from the LENNON database, the rail industry’s central ticketing system, which records around 98% of all journeys.
• ATOC’s figures show journeys made with the Disabled Persons Railcard have grown 237% from 1,081,877 in 1996/97 to 3,650,640 in 2010/11.
• Average savings are based on data for the period 1981/82 to 2010/11 and equate to £2,474 in real terms. This includes the costs of any travel by an adult companion who also receives the Railcard discount.
Picture caption: [Name of MP] adds [his/her] signature to the giant 30th birthday Railcard