Lifting the barriers to accessible rail travel

Caroline Eglinton joined us earlier this year as Head of Inclusion. Read more about how we’re planning to make East West Rail inclusive and accessible for everyone – right from the start.

Portrait shot of Caroline Eglinton

When it’s complete, East West Rail (EWR) will transport large numbers of people across the towns, cities and villages between Oxford and Cambridge on a daily basis. Around a fifth of the UK population considers themselves to be disabled, so it’s really important we think about how we can make our services as accessible and inclusive to as many people as possible – including the 20% of customers who may be disabled.

Picture of Caroline talking with colleagues at recent colleague eventCaroline speaking to EWR colleagues

Making East West Rail accessible for all

As a brand new railway, we have the unique opportunity of making EWR fully accessible right from the start, where every aspect of the customer experience is considered. When we think about how society views disability, the most common misconception I come across is how people imagine those with a disability. The first thing that comes to mind for most people is a wheelchair user, which isn’t surprising when the universal symbol for disability is the wheelchair icon. But, when thinking about disability, it’s important to consider the wide range of disabled people – including physical and mental, visible and non-visible conditions. 

We see a lot in the press about negative experiences disabled people face when using public transport. And it’s not just about the physical accessibility of the infrastructure and the built environment. On the railway, the behaviour and attitude of staff can turn what should be a straightforward journey into a more memorable experience – for all the wrong reasons.

That’s why I’m committed to making sure East West Rail is accessible for all. 

As a subject matter expert, I help to guide our teams as we think beyond the traditional views on what makes an accessible and inclusive railway. I’m a disabled person myself, and feel passionate about lifting the barriers on accessible travel. Alongside my role as Head of Inclusion at EWR Co, I’ve had opportunities to shape the work of the industry through my appointment as Disability and Access Ambassador by the Minister of Disabled People and Deputy Chair of the National Rail Disability Strategy.

One of our values at East West Railway Company is to think differently and we’re a diverse bunch who care deeply about a railway that meets the future needs of all our customers. I’ve been warmly welcomed by colleagues at every level as I start my mission to ensure that the principles of accessibility and inclusion are embedded in our internal culture.

Our Accessibility Advisory Panel 

A large part of my role will be building relationships with disabled people locally – listening to views and feeding this insight back into our teams. A critical resource will be our Accessibility Advisory Panel, which we’re recruiting for now. This panel will include disabled people who live across the proposed route and meet regularly to consider things like access to stations and platforms, clarity of information and the onboard experience.

Of course, disabled people aren’t the only group that we’ll be thinking of. Our customer research shows that there are many ways we can offer people an inclusive and accessible journey experience. Our passengers will, of course, be made up of millions of individuals with their own characteristics, identities and needs. That means our strategy will always be under review to make sure we continue adapting so we build a better railway which works for everyone.

**Please note that applications to the East West Rail Accessibility Advisory Panel are now closed**