Passenger Assistance is a service provided by train companies to disabled passengers and others who require assistance with any part of their train journey. Staff can help you plan your journey, book tickets and make reservations; they can also assist you at stations and on board trains, with anything from changing platforms to finding your seat.
Passenger Assistance is free and available to anyone who needs assistance due to a disability, temporary impairment, or older age. No railcard is required.
What happens when I book assistance?
If you phone National Rail Enquiries or book online your request will be directed to the train company responsible for the first leg of your journey. Your request becomes a ‘booking’ and the details are recorded and relayed to the appropriate train and station staff of each company involved in your journey, even if this involves multiple companies. You do not need to contact each company yourself.
Since May 2012, when you contact an operator your request for assistance is entered into a new computerised system creating a record that has your name, contact details and type of assistance you require. Your access needs will then be checked against the accessibility of each station and train that is part of your journey.
If any part of your journey is taking place on a service where seats can be booked, the booking operators will book a seat for you. Even where seat reservations are not allowed the wheelchair space can still be prioritised. The operators will also alert all staff at the station so they know they should be expecting you and provide you with assistance if needed.
If you provide an e-mail address you will also receive confirmation of the booking that has been made or you can ask that confirmation is posted to you.
What assistance can be provided?
Station staff can meet you at the station and assist you as required, whether that is help with purchasing your ticket, getting to your platform, boarding the train or finding your seat.
Train staff will also assist you if you need an accessible wheelchair space and make sure other customers do not block the area with their luggage; they can bring you food and refreshments from the restaurant carriage, or simply alert you when your station is coming up.
You can also be guided off the train, through the arrival or interchange station and assisted with your onward travel arrangements such as catching a bus or booking an accessible taxi.
What assistance cannot be provided?
You may have a disability and have travelled without any assistance before, but things can easily change: a ramp becomes faulty, an accessible toilet breaks down, or staff who recognise you and know your assistance needs are absent. Booking assistance means that none of these issues will be your problem; solutions will be found and you can approach your journey with peace of mind. Booking assistance is also helpful if you are making a journey on a route or to a station you have never used before.
I’ve had a bad experience with booking assistance in the past
The passenger booking system has been able to deliver assistance successfully in the vast majority of cases and failed assistance is being reduced. We know train and station operating companies still have some way to go and we ask that you help us improve by reporting failures of service and always booking in advance.
There are some things you can do to make sure the assistance booked works:
Please remember to turn up for the service you have booked. Your booking will be detailed on a confirmation e-mail that will be sent to you. If you don’t have access to e-mail you can ask for this to be posted to you.
Turn up in advance of your journey. We recommend you arrive 20 minutes in advance for long journeys or if you are using a large station. If you’re travelling from a smaller station you should arrive 10 minutes before your train departs.
Make sure that you tell staff at the station when you arrive that you have booked assistance.
Bring your booking confirmation with you.
If you use a mobile phone it might be an idea to keep the Passenger Assistance phone or textphone number with you so you can check with them on the journey if necessary (by providing your name and date or reference of travel the system can retrace your booking). By reporting failures or delays, passengers who have booked assistance are making train and station operating companies more aware of the problems and the expectations disabled travellers have of the railways. In the long run ATOC hope that through this public confidence in the system will increase.
If the assistance you have booked is not delivered make sure you tell us. You can do this by contacting the number through which you booked assistance in the first place. By reporting failures or delays, you are making train and station operating companies more aware of the problems and the expectations disabled travellers have and helping us to improve the quality of assistance delivered. This will mean that we can address any consistent failures and also get to the bottom of what went wrong.