‘Rotten franchise’ instructs staff not to help disabled if it risks delays.
Govia Thameslink Railways (GTR), the beleaguered train company described by RMT general secretary Mick Cash as a ‘rotten franchise’, instructed staff not to help disabled people, passengers with temporary injuries or struggling with heavy cases if it was likely to delay trains.
The following instruction was in a leaflet given to staff before the catastrophic timetable change in May.
‘Do not attempt to place PRM [Persons of Reduced Mobility] on train if there is a possibility of delaying the service…’
GTR tried to defuse the anger caused by the insensitive instruction by saying its policies hadn’t changed. They were in place before GTR was awarded the franchise. This explanation raises questions about the role of the Department for Transport (DaFT) in giving a contract to a firm which views disabled and injured passengers as annoying obstacles. Or which reduces vulnerable people to a crass acronym: PRM.
This policy doesn’t just affect disabled and infirm adults. It makes it more difficult for young people with disabilities to use trains. Hundreds of pupils travel by rail to attend school every day. It’s inevitable some of these will have disabilities or temporary injuries.
Shortly after GTR issued its edict, a petition on Change.org was set up calling for disabled people to have the freedom to travel on trains. It now has 186,000 signatures, just 14,000 short of the 200,000 number which would have triggered a debate in Parliament if it had been on the Gov.Uk website.