Network Rail sorry for disability 'distress' over lift closures

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Network Rail have promised to consult disabled passengers about accessibility improvements in future

Rail bosses have apologised for causing "distress" after disabled passengers had to drag themselves up stairs to access a station due to lift closures.

Network Rail has admitted closing all three lifts at Manchester Victoria station "was the wrong thing to do".

Disability charity Scope said it is "unacceptable that disabled people have to take a risk with each journey".

The rail company apologised following a review of the 2019 incident by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The commission found Network Rail had breached its legal obligations to make reasonable adjustments for disabled users.

The firm's North West route has now entered a legally binding agreement to prevent discrimination against disabled people.

It also promised to consult disabled passengers and groups in the future ahead of accessibility work.

'Deeply sorry'

Wheelchair users had to move up steps to access the station or use a stair-climber when lifts were being replaced in September 2019.

Network Rail had failed to complete a disability-impact assessment and consult with disabled passengers or groups to determine whether arrangements to replace the lifts were appropriate, EHRC said.

Alastair Pringle, EHRC executive director, said: "Transport operators have clear responsibilities in law to ensure travel is just as possible for disabled people as for everyone else.

"When that doesn't happen, the impact on disabled people can be disastrous."

Phil James, Network Rail's North West route director, said a lack of available lift engineers led to the company closing all three lifts at the same time.

"This was the wrong thing to do and we are deeply sorry for the distress and inconvenience this caused mobility-assisted passengers," he said.

James Taylor, executive director for strategy at Scope, welcomed the action being taken, but said "numerous accessibility deadlines" had already been missed by the rail industry.

He said: "It also shouldn't take a legally binding agreement to ensure companies consult with disabled people before making decisions that affect them."

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