Rail bosses urged to install tactile strips after death of visually-impaired man

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

Tactile strips should be installed near the edge of “high-risk” railway station platforms, an investigation into the death of a visually-impaired man has found.

The lack of a distinctive surface to assist people with vision loss was a “possible causal factor” in Cleveland Gervais, 53, falling onto the tracks and being struck by a train in south-east London, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said.

Mr Gervais was probably unaware he was close to the edge when he fell from the platform at Eden Park station, near Bromley on February 26 last year, according to the report.

The station is managed by train operator Southeastern.

Chief inspector of rail accidents Simon French called for tactile strips to be installed “where most needed”.

He said: “Although RAIB recognises that the immediate provision of tactile strips across the network would be very expensive, there is a need to develop a new policy to guide decision-makers.

“This would inform the development of a programme for installation of tactile strips, particularly at places where the risk is likely to be higher, such as busy unstaffed stations.

“It cannot always make sense simply to wait until platforms are refurbished to install the strips.”

Ambulance staff who arrived at the scene of the accident were forced to wait 12 minutes before providing medical care to Mr Gervais as they had to wait until a Network Rail employee was present to determine that the power supply to the electrified third rail had been turned off.

An inquiry by London Ambulance Service concluded that this delay was “unlikely to have affected his chances of survival”, the RAIB said.

The RAIB made recommendations to improve rail accessibility to a number of organisations including the Department for Transport, Network Rail, Rail Delivery Group and Office of Rail and Road.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris expressed his “deepest condolences to the family and friends of Cleveland Gervais”.

He said the Government’s inclusive transport strategy has improved accessibility at hundreds of stations, including the use of tactile surfaces.

But he acknowledged “there is still a long way to go”.

He added: “We are working with Network Rail on a plan for the rollout of tactile surfaces on platforms, and will be making it absolutely clear to the industry that we expect them to prioritise installation whenever work is carried out.”

Network Rail’s head of public and passenger safety Allan Spence said: “At the time of the accident, we were already fitting tactile paving strips on station platforms in that area, and indeed these have now been fitted at Eden Park, though tragically the work was completed after this accident.

“Our focus is on providing a safe and reliable railway for all passengers, and that means continuing to improve accessibility. We’re making progress but we know there is a lot more to do.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “No passenger’s life should be put at risk because platforms aren’t fitted with tactile surface markings.

“We’re calling on Network Rail to work with the industry to speed up installation of tactile surfaces on all station platforms.

“In the meantime, it needs to be clear where they are and aren’t installed.”

Network Rail data obtained by Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon shows only two-thirds of platforms on Britain’s railways have tactile surfaces.

Ms Pidgeon, who is also deputy chairwoman of the Assembly’s Transport Committee, said: “In 2021 it is staggering that one-third of platforms around the country lack tactile paving, a basic safety measure, simply because it is only installed when there are major station renovations.”

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