The Tyne & Wear Metro has announced it is England’s first railway to have tactile paving on every platform.
The paving provides an important accessibility upgrade for blind and partially sighted people. According to the National Assembly, somewhere between 9 and 15 per cent of people falling on railway tracks are either blind or partially sighted.
One tragedy well remembered by the industry will have been at Eden Park Station on 26 February 2020. RAIB’s investigation of the incident, where a person had been struck by a train, highlighted the importance of tactile paving.
The man, who had impaired vision, had been killed because they had moved near to and fell from the platform edge.
RAIB said it was probably his visual impairment that meant he didn’t know he was close to the edge, and the platform was not fitted with tactile markings intended to assist visually impaired people.
Following the incident, RAIB recommended to Network Rail and DfT firstly that they seek improvements in the processes that govern when tactile surfaces at the edge of station platforms should be installed, and secondly, they develop a plan for installing tactile surfaces at higher priority locations in a timely manner across the railway network.
In February 2022, ORR confirmed in a letter to RAIB that, based on the Eden Park accident (the report for which had been issued 19 February 2021), Network Rail expected most of the work to be carried out in the last year of CP6 and first year of CP7 (2024-2025).
A major programme complete
Nexus, which runs the Metro, installed the paving on its remaining 12 stations as part of a year-long project. The result is that all 60 stations on its network now have tactile surfacing – as well as step-free access from street to platform.
Major Projects Director at Nexus, Cathy Massarella, said: “I am delighted to say that Metro is the first railway in the country to have tactile paving on every platform edge. This provides a major accessibility improvement for customers who are blind or partially sighted.
“We worked closely with RNIB, Guide Dogs, and other local disability campaigners to bring this project to fruition.”
Lewis Winton, RNIB regional campaign officer for the North East, said: “Tactile paving is not just an accessibility measure, it is fundamental to the health and safety of passengers and pedestrians. There should be no train platforms without tactile paving. The feature is essential in enabling blind and partially sighted people to travel independently and safely.
“We are delighted that the Tyne and Wear Metro has become the first rail network in England to have tactile paving installed on all its platforms and we would urge all rail networks to follow suit.”
The last two stations to have tactile edges installed were Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, both of which needed listed building consent. This summer Nexus will also carry out a £2m project to restore its historic glass canopy roof.
Nexus is now working on the installation of tactile paving on all of the staircases at stations across the Metro system.