Call for tactile paving: Llandudno guide dog owner had to get down on the floor and use hands

GUIDE Dogs Cymru is calling on Network Rail to fit tactile paving at all railway stations in Wales to warn vision-impaired passengers that they are nearing the platform edge.

The call follows a report into the death of Cleveland Gervais, a man with sight loss who fell from the platform and was hit by a train at Eden Park station in London in February 2020. The report, by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, concluded that the absence of tactile paving at the platform edge could have been a factor in his death.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 63 per cent of platforms in Wales currently have no tactile paving. Guide Dogs Cymru understands that there are plans to install the special paving at a number of stations in Wales, including those on the Core Valley Lines, and on some new platforms to accommodate the South Wales Metro.

But Guide Dogs Cymru argues that having tactile paving on some, and not all, platforms could increase the risk to sight impaired passengers, who rely on it to be there. Many of the stations are unstaffed, which adds to the danger.

Chris Copeman, of Llandudno, who owns guide dog Rigsby, said: “Rail travel is really important to people like me who have sight loss and cannot drive, but I get quite nervous on stations because, in my experience, tactile paving on platforms is inadequate.

“I had a frightening experience at the local station, which is no more than 30 or 40 yards from the road. I got off the train and was disorientated as to which platform I was on. I started walking, but I did not know if I was going towards the road or the edge of the platform. It was quite late at night and there was no traffic noise to help me work it out.

“I knew the pavement outside had no tactile paving, but neither did the railway platform, so I had to get down on the floor and use my hand to feel for a steep drop.

“Tactile markings would have let me know straight away that I was at the platform edge.”

Andrea Gordon, external affairs manager for Guide Dogs Cymru, said: “We welcome the commitment by Network Rail to install more tactile paving, but we want this to happen on all platforms throughout Wales.

“Public transport is key to the independence of blind and partially sighted people, but station platforms pose an obvious danger. We need the correct tactile paving to be installed, so that people can navigate their way safely and with confidence.

“The draft Wales Transport Strategy states that there should be fewer barriers that prevent people from making best use of rail services, including improving physical accessibility. We believe this should include tactile paving on all platforms in Wales and have submitted our comments to the consultation.”

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno