20th February is World Social Justice Day. The theme for 2023 is "Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice". It seems apt then, that we had a busy day campaigning for the rights of disabled people to have access to rail services.
Three of our board members, Dennis, Helen and Pete, spent the day getting the message out there that disabled people need guards on trains and ticket offices to remain open to ensure that we can access train services independently.
Dennis was interviewed by Granada Reports at Mauldeth Road train station in Manchester. She spoke about the fact that many disabled people need assistance from station staff and guards on trains to ensure that they can travel independently. She also explained that disabled people had to use direct action to get the access in the first place and it would be great if it didn't have to go that far again.
Meanwhile, Helen and Pete got early trains down to London to head to 10 Downing Street. Disabled people's organisations and women's groups petitioned throughout the day to ensure Rishi Sunak gets the message that safety and accessibility on the trains and at train stations is non negotiable and we want more staff not less.
"Driver-only trains and unstaffed stations create structural barriers to disabled people's right to use our public transport system, and we remind the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Transport that access to rail travel supports the social and economic inclusion of disabled members of society.
To avoid breaches of our access rights, the government must ensure the rail operators and Network Rail staff our stations, save our ticket offices, and keep the guards on the train."
We were one of 150 organisations to sign NFBUK's petition against proposed "modernisation" of the rail network, which would mean ticket office closures and driver only trains. NFBUK delivered their petition to Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper in December and to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month. However, they didn't get a reply so returned today with colleagues from other DPOs including GMCDP, Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London.