Statistics published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) in its Measuring Up annual rail consumer report show that, last year, more than 52,000 people received assistance on their West Midlands train journey, a rise of more than a third on 2017/18.
The assisted travel schemes run by train operators allow passengers with visual, hearing, mobility or other impairments to book free assistance at the station.
Nationally, 1.3 million travellers booked assists, an increase of two per cent on the year before. However, the figures for individual train operators showed a great deal of variation. Some operators showed a decline, such as South Western Railway (down 1.8 per cent) and Virgin Trains (down 10 per cent).
Others saw a marked increase, including West Midlands Trains, operator of West Midlands Railway and North Western Railway services, which saw a whopping 35.6 per cent increase to a total of 52,555 booked assistance requests. Customer satisfaction with that assistance (90 per cent) was above average too.
Jon Harris, integration and accessibility manager at West Midlands Tains, said: “Our railway is open for everyone and we are committed to offer help where it is needed, particularly to those with hidden disabilities and those who need more confidence when travelling.
“While these figures are very pleasing, we know there is more to do and we have a number of schemes up and running or in progress across our network to do even more to open up our services for every single passenger.”
John Larkinson, ORR chief executive, was more concerned about the overall figures which showed very little growth and that only 76 per cent received all of the assistance they had booked: “Despite improvements made by the industry, the quality of assistance provided to passengers who need it falls below society’s expectations. And passengers are still not claiming the compensation they are entitled to when trains are delayed.
“A substantial change is needed and we look forward to continue working with the Williams Rail Review to help bring this about.”