Blind man who fell on to tracks at Manchester Piccadilly calls for urgent upgrade of safe travel provision with tactile paving in train stations
A blind man who fell on to the tracks at Manchester Piccadilly after he was let down by Passenger Assist and there was no tactile paving at the platform edge is calling for urgent action to improve provision for disabled people travelling on trains.
Posted on 14 June 2023
Abdul Eneser, aged 20, says there is still not enough tactile paving at train stations and Passenger Assist arrangements often fall into disarray.
Passenger Assist, supported by all train companies, runs nationally. It provides assistance to disabled people to navigate a station, help to get on and off trains and to exit a station.
Tactile paving is usually raised-profile paving slabs, metal studs or adhesive tiles that can be felt through shoes or by mobility aids such as long canes. Tactile paving warns blind and visually impaired people that they are approaching changes in layout or hazards like a road crossing, a flight of stairs, or edge of a rail platform.
Abdul fell on to tracks at Manchester Piccadilly Platform 14 on 21 May 2022 after Passenger Assist failed following a train delay and there was no tactile paving at the platform edge. A non-stop freight train passed through the station on the same track around one minute after Abdul managed to pull himself back on to the platform.
A year later, Abdul was left without assistance when travelling from Glasgow to Manchester, and he found himself having to change trains alone at Crewe station, where again there was no tactile paving.
Abdul is taking legal action against Network Rail and the train operating companies responsible for failures that led to his traumatic experience at Manchester Piccadilly when he was travelling home from Glasgow to Manchester via Preston. The Preston train was operated by Avanti and his Manchester train was run by Northern.
Abdul booked Passenger Assist in advance. He was assisted to board his Avanti train at Glasgow but, due to delays, he missed his connection to Manchester and had to wait 90 minutes for the next Northern train. Avanti staff helped Abdul off and on the trains at Preston and he was told they would radio through to Piccadilly to tell them that he was on the train and his seat number.
However, when Abdul arrived at Piccadilly Platform 14, no one from Passenger Assist was present to help him because, he was later told, they had all gone home.
Abdul believes a signaller or the conductor assisted him off the train, but told him they couldn’t stay, so he was left waiting alone on Platform 14. He was then escorted further along the platform by the same member of staff, and left.
There were no audio announcements to tell blind and visually impaired passengers that there was no tactile paving on Platform 14, unlike other platforms at Manchester Piccadilly where the tactile paving had been installed.
Abdul tried to find the steps to the main station area. Platform 14 had a yellow line a couple of feet from the platform edge and a white line along the edge of the platform, but no tactile paving. As Abdul tried to locate the steps from Platform 14 to the main Piccadilly concourse, he stepped off the platform and fell on to the track. The absence of tactile paving meant he was unaware of the platform edge.
Bleeding on both knees and in pain around his neck, he managed to stand up and lift his rucksack on to the platform. The member of staff who had helped him earlier ran to Abdul and helped pull him on to the platform. His white stick and phone were still on the tracks when around a minute later, a freight train passed through.
The station manager gave Abdul first-aid and he was told that Passenger Assist had gone home. He went to A&E, but faced with a long wait, he went home and put ice on his wounds.
Network Rail told Abdul that they were investigating the incident, but they have not contacted him since.
On 19 May 2023 Abdul was again travelling from Glasgow to Manchester and booked Passenger Assist. He had to board a later train from Glasgow after his booked train was delayed. There was no assistance available when he reached Warrington Bank Quay, where he was hoping to change for Manchester Victoria. Despite contacting the Avanti WhatsApp service, who assured Abdul they had spoken to both the train manager and the station staff, no one arrived to help him and he had to stay on the train. He contacted the Avanti social media team who arranged for someone to meet Abdul at Crewe. However, again no one arrived, and since Abdul did not want to travel to London, he got off the train. A member of the public guided him to the barrier, where he received guidance for his Manchester train. Abdul later discovered that the platform lacked tactile paving.
Abdul, represented by law firm Leigh Day, has sent a legal letter to Network Rail, Avanti West Coast and Northern Trains to launch a legal claim about the Piccadilly incident and to remind them of their duties under equality laws, and the guidance on tactile paving and assisting disabled passengers, which he believes they have failed to observe.
Under the Equality Act 2010 Network Rail, Avanti and Northern have a duty to make reasonable adjustments so that Abdul was not put at a substantial disadvantage by their policies and the physical features of the station. Abdul is arguing that this includes a duty to install tactile paving and/or provide audio announcements where it is not present and/or ensure staff are present to assist visually impaired people.
Guidance on tactile paving was introduced in 1986 and updated in 1998 and 2022. Yet many platform edges still do not have tactile paving. Leigh Day is aware of a number of blind and visually impaired people who have fallen from platform edges due to the lack of tactile paving. Cleveland Gervais was hit by a train and died after he fell off a platform at Eltham Park station in February 2020. The Inquest into his death concluded that the lack of tactile paving caused or materially contributed to his death.
Abdul Eneser said:
“The night I travelled back from Glasgow and found myself left to my own devices at Manchester Piccadilly was the most traumatic experience I have ever had to face as a visually impaired person.
“I used to be a confident rail user, but the fear I experienced when I fell from the platform, and when I think about what might have happened if I hadn’t managed to get back on to the platform with a minute to spare, has left me very nervous when using the railway.
“Visually impaired people should feel just as safe as sighted people when they embark on a train journey. My experience shows that Network Rail and train operating companies are failing to provide a proper service for visually impaired people. I hope that when they stop to think about what might have happened to me on that night at Piccadilly train station they will realise they need to speed up their efforts to install tactile paving and improve their service urgently.
“I have now faced Passenger Assistance failures and lack of tactile paving twice in one year. Had it not been for the member of the public helping me at Crewe, then I may have fallen from the platform edge again.
Samantha Fothergill, senior legal adviser at RNIB said:
“Up to 15 per cent of people falling from platforms are blind or partially sighted. Despite being a fundamental safety measure which people with sight loss rely on to keep a safe distance from the platform edge, 40 per cent of mainline railway stations in Britain lack tactile.
“This is completely unacceptable. RNIB has been campaigning for rail safety for a number of years and we’re pleased to see that Network Rail has now pledged to install tactile paving on all rail platforms in Britain by 2025. We will continue to monitor Network Rail’s progress until there are no train platforms without tactile paving in Britain. We don’t want another blind person to go through the same experience as Abdul.”
Leigh Day solicitor Kate Egerton who represents Abdul, said:
“It is staggering that, despite the number of incidents involving blind and visually impaired people falling from platforms, tactile paving is missing from such a large proportion of stations. Network Rail and Train Operating Companies have legal obligations to ensure that train stations are safe for all members of the public, including disabled passengers. These duties are plainly being breached. We hear from clients that Passenger Assist consistently fails leaving blind and visually impaired passengers to navigate train stations on their own. This is particularly dangerous where there is no tactile paving to alert them to the platform edge.”
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