Southern Railway’s shameful decision to withdraw “Turn Up and Go” access for disabled people came under fire yesterday, Wednesday, as at least 50 people joined a protest at London Bridge station.
It was organised by the Transport for All group—and backed by disabled and passenger groups—to highlight Southern’s attack on accessibility.
Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Southern, insists that people need to plan their journey 24 hours in advance if they require assistance from staff while travelling.
Karla a carer for a disabled man told Socialist Worker, “You can’t always plan ahead, this is a step backwards for accessibility.”
There were loud chants of “2, 4, 6, 8—Southern Rail discriminate” as protesters marched into the train station with banners and placards.
The RMT union has today called for an inquiry over train operators meeting access and equality obligations for disabled passengers as they impose further driver only operation (DOO).
RMT and the Aslef union are currently in dispute with Southern bosses over DOO.
RMT members on Southern were set for a coordinated strike this Saturday with workers on Northern and Merseyrail.
“I don’t usually support strikes,” Tilly Siammonds told Socialist Worker, “but Aslef and RMT are right – they are putting too much pressure on drivers.
"It’s not safe and it’s not good enough in the 21st century.”
Without an accessible rail network many disabled people face isolation and stress from travel. Tilly said, “You get to a point where it is too much hassle to go out.”
Protester Patrick said, “If I’m looking to travel I shouldn’t be in a position telling someone I can’t do it because of access.”
One of the big problems with DOO is that many people with disabilities rely on train guards to help them on their journey. But in their desire for profit bosses are willing to forgo equal access to the railways.
Richard said, “I was told there would be someone to help me when I got to Rochford but it’s an unmanned station and the guard had to get me off. Removing them removes that safeguard.”
It is not only Southern attacking accessibility but it is, so far, the only London service withdrawing Turn Up and Go. Yragael said, “People know the problems Southern is having, but they don’t realise the accessibility issues.”
Yragael pointed out, “On the new Elizabeth (Crossrail) line only 12 out of 40 stations will be completely step free. But they can’t back down now because they don’t want to admit that privatised services aren’t working.”
Supporting the Aslef and RMT disputes on Southern, Northern and Merseyrail will also boost those fighting for passenger safety and accessibility.