Disabled Persons Railcard

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The Disabled Persons Railcard enables passengers with reduced mobility to travel at one-third off many fares on Great Britain’s National Rail network.

Card and discounts

The card is available as a one-year validity card for £20 and as a three-year validity card for £54. The Railcard holder is entitled to take an adult friend with them at the same discount rate.

All franchised train operating companies in Great Britain must accept the Railcard and offer discounts under terms set out in the Railways Act 1993. The Railcard is managed by the Association of Train Operating Companies. It is aimed at people who have the most difficulty using rail for a reason relating to their disability. Its purpose is to encourage people to use the train.

Disabled people apply for the Railcard by post (to Rail Travel Made Easy, PO Box 11631, Laurencekirk AB30 9AA), sending proof of their disability, but can renew the card online, by telephone (0845 605 0525), textphone/minicom (0845 601 0132) or by post.

The Disabled Persons Railcard website enables people to print off an application form, rather than needing to have the actual leaflet for applications.

The Disabled Persons Railcard enables users to avail of special offers from partner companies including Holiday Inn, Ramada Jarvis hotels, Crowne Plaza hotels, and Tio Pepe restaurants.

Origins

British Rail (BR) introduced the Disabled Persons Railcard in 1981 to mark the International Year of Disabled Persons. Sir Peter Parker was Chairman of BR at the time and the British Railways Board included wheelchair user Bill Buchanan, who was “Special Adviser on the Disabled”.

The Railcard initially cost £5. Its price increased to £14 in the 1990s and then in 2006 to £18 . A three-year Railcard was also introduced in September 2006 at £48.

Qualifying disabilities

Applicants must submit evidence to show that their disability makes them eligible for a Disabled Persons Railcard. This includes having visual and hearing impairments, epilepsy or a number of allowances available to disabled people. This approach is similar to that used for local authority Concessionary Travel Schemes or the Blue badge Disabled Parking Permit Scheme. Current eligibility criteria are shown on the Disabled Persons Railcard website.

Disabled people and trains

Historically, the design of most British trains did not enable wheelchair users to travel in the main passenger area. Passenger doors were too narrow and the fixed seating layout did not give wheelchair users space to maneuver. When wheelchair users could travel by rail, it was in the guard’s van.

The introduction of High Speed Trains and sliding door carriages in the 1970s and 1980s, did much to improve access for disabled passengers, especially with wider doors and priority seating giving people more leg room.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 introduced design standards for the future design and construction of public transport vehicles. So, in November 1998 the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations were introduced. These had a significant impact on the design of new trains and refurbishment of existing ones. Rail Vehicle Regulations also formed the basis of the TSI-PRM, a European standard for heavy rail vehicles accessibility.

Issuing the Disabled Persons Railcard

The Disabled Persons Railcard was first issued from an administration office at York station. Initially, issuing was a manual procedure as there were no computers. This continued until rail privatisation in the mid-1990s, when issuing work was taken over by a British Telecom office at Newcastle – a computerised database was introduced, although ticket issuing remained a manual process.

In 2008, issuing arrangements moved to Scottish contact centre operator, Journeycall, based in Brechin, Angus, and Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire. This move also saw the introduction of automated ticket issuing systems and increased call centre opening hours (available between 07.00 and 22.00 every day except Christmas Day).

Each application form is checked to ensure correct qualification, with postal renewal reminders issued to Railcard holders.

Numbers of holders

Since its 1981 launch over a million Disabled Persons Railcards have been issued, with the millionth issued in 2008. Currently, there are over 140,000 Disabled Persons Railcard holders, with a goal of expanding numbers further to enable as many disabled people (and accompanying companions) as possible to travel through Great Britain at a discount rate.

Marketing the Disabled Persons Railcard

Management and marketing of the Railcard is led by the Disability & Inclusion Team at the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) in London.

At one stage British Rail produced two leaflets targeted at disabled rail users: one promoted the Railcard and the other gave details of rail travel assistance arrangements for disabled passengers. These two leaflets were merged into a single booklet entitled “Rail Travel for Disabled Passengers”.

This was issued once a year and contained information on the services train operating companies offered disabled people. Its A5 format meant that it could not be racked at most rail stations. The colour scheme was predominantly black, white and green, and arial font was used for easy reading.

By 2007 many train operating companies (TOCs) produced their own detailed information for disabled customers; following rail privatisation, each TOC had to produce a Disabled Persons Protection Policy (often known as a “DPPP”). Also, many TOCs produced literature targeted at disabled customers and all had websites with accessibility-related information. These developments freed ATOC to give “Rail Travel for Disabled Passengers” a face-lift and by May 2007 it produced a new version of the leaflet called “Rail Travel Made Easy”.

“Rail Travel Made Easy” returned to the DL-size used for most other rail leaflets, making it easy to rack at stations. The leaflet became a colour publication featuring photographs of disabled rail users travelling independently. Downloadable versions of this leaflet are on the Disabled Persons Railcard website.

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