- Station safety
Over the years different types of rolling stock have been introduced and platforms constructed to different heights. This has meant that the stepping distance between platform edge and train coaches can vary at some stations around the network.
If the gap is too big it can be a risk to passengers getting on and off trains This is particularly the case for disabled and elderly passengers and people with small children and push chairs.
When new railways are being constructed, in line with the requirements of the Construction Design and Management Regulations, we now expect clients/designers to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that passenger access to train coaches provides minimal steeping distances and is if possible step-free. This has been achieved on the Heathrow Express Service from London's Paddington station and on the London Underground Jubilee Line extension.
Where possible we expect opportunities to be taken, for example, where other station improvement work is being done, to improve all platforms not conforming to current accepted good practice.
Network Rail initiated a programme that included identifying problem locations and developing an action plan. This is an ongoing risk based programme aimed at carrying out the highest priority locations first.
We accept that in many cases, particularly at platforms not used very much, upgrading may take time. There needs to be priority about the risk, the extent of the defects and the number of passengers exposed to the risk. It should be noted that it may be impossible to eliminate some platform gaps because they are located on track curves.
Under current health and safety law, railway operators should reduce the risk from gaps as low as is reasonably practicable. For existing station platforms, a judgement has to be made as to whether it would be reasonably practicable to reduce the gaps and whether the cost of taking action would be disproportionate to the level of risk.
When assessing the risks caused by stepping gaps, railway companies should take into account track curvature, and the lean (cant) of trains travelling at speed through the station as well as those stopping. Train operators should also take account of the characteristics of the suspension systems and running gear.
The Strategic Rail Authority published a Code of Practice on 'Train and Station Services for Disabled Passengers' which sets out a framework to be considered when significant platform works are to be undertaken.
Copies can be obtained from the Department for Transport or by contacting the Mobility & Inclusion Unit, Department for Transport, 4/23, Great Minster House, 76, Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR
Last updated: June 2012