The 26th PASSAGE (Passenger Accessibility Solutions Support and Action Group for Europe), Working Group meeting took place from 17 – 18 October 2017 in Madrid, kindly hosted by RENFE. It was chaired by Mr Hans Christian Kierketeerp Moller (DSB), president of the group. UIC was represented by Ms Vanessa Pérez, Advisor for the Passenger Department. Representatives from ÖBB, SBB, RENFE, RFI, TRENITALIA, ZSSK, TRAFIKVERKET, ČD, SNCF, DSB, MÁV START, VR and EUROSTAR attended the meeting.
As is usual during these meetings, the participants gave an updated view on the situation of PRMs in their countries and the new developments of accessibility policies in their companies, which led to debates about the different situations that were explained by attendees. It was also the opportunity for David Sarfatti (AVANCIAL) to present the latest statistics in the use of the UIC Booking Assistance Tool, whose activity is steadily growing by making international journeys for PRMS possible.
This year the group has been focusing on the guide dog’s policy and the problems derived from the carriage of scooters for PRMs by train, which is a challenge for the customer oriented service with the current railway infrastructures. During the meeting a fruitful brainstorming revealed the future lines of activity for the group to be defined and developed during the next months.
On the second day, participants went on a technical visit to four interesting places: ‘Atocha Cercanías’ station, the ‘OCA’ office for the ‘Renfe Atendo’ service, a demonstration of assistance to a person on a wheelchair and, finally, ‘Madrid Puerta de Atocha’ station.
‘Atocha Cercanías’ is the most important Spanish station dedicated to Commuter trains. Around 330,000 people pass through this station per day, and an average of seven hundred and seventy-two (772) trains. From the point of view of accessibility, it is a quite complex station with two levels. It has elevators, ramps, mechanic stairs, guided, public address system, information and automatic vending machines. It is connected to ‘Madrid Puerta de Atocha’ station, where high-speed trains leave.
‘Madrid Puerta de Atocha’ is the station with the most train traffic in Spain. It is the most important station for high speed trains. In total in 2016, about 49,000 trains departed to all destinations, and the same back. Daily, 116 trains travel through ‘Madrid Puerta de Atocha’ station. In ‘Madrid Puerta de Atocha’ station they visited Renfe’s Central Office for customer attention.
‘Renfe Atendo’ is the service that assists people with disabilities and reduced mobility who need help for travelling. To ensure the quality of this service, there is an office called OCA. The OCA, Central Attention Office, is the managing center of ‘Renfe Atendo’. All the OCA staff have disabilities. This way, they are very close to their customers and the service that they provide is always better.
Their mission is to guarantee this service in the best possible way. Moreover, they deal with the special needs of clients with disabilities. They provide systems to the customers that enable them to solve their needs (visual system, a system that translates a conversation into sign language, induction loop, Braille printer, as well as wheelchairs, walking sticks, etc.).
During the technical visit the participants visited a Commuter train unit, attended an assistance in a high speed train with a platform, and saw a demonstration with the ‘oruga’ (caterpillar); a device that allows travellers in wheelchairs to go through the stairs both up and down in cases where the elevator or the mechanic stairs are not working. This ‘oruga’ is the only inclined lifting platform able to work with all kinds of wheelchairs. It is very useful when other systems fail, and it’s a very secure system.
Although the PASSAGE meeting ended on 18 October, some of the participants attended the 6th NEXTSTATION Conference, organised by UIC and ADIF to support the session “Accessibility in the information age” on the second day.
The next meeting will take place in Utrecht from 23-24 January 2018.
Please, notice that an opt-in for project (Passage II) has been launched for 2018-2020 so interested members are welcome to join this group of experts within the next months.