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Evaluations

RAILWAY SERVICE

 

In order to grant full accessibility of the service for disabled people, operators should consider the following points:

  1. AVAILABILITY OF TRAINS WITH EQUIPPED COACHES
  2. RAILWAY STATION ACCESSIBILITY
  3. CLEAR AND RELIABLE TIMETABLE INFORMATION ON THE ARRIVAL OF EQUIPPED TRAINS
  4. ASSISTANCE SERVICE FOR DISABLED PASSENGERS AT ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE STATIONS.

Let’s analyse the point of weakness and strength of each one of these items, considering that the railway transport companies operating in the Lombardy Region are: Trenitalia and Ferrovie Nord Milano.

TRAINS WITH EQUIPPED COACHES FOR DISABLED PEOPLE

Full accessibility of coaches is granted by:

    • step-free access to get on the passenger coach (low floor)
    • specially allocated wheelchair spaces
    • Acoustic signals for blind people
    • Visual signals for deaf people
    • Disabled toilet

Points of weakness

  • The percentage of equipped coaches on the total amount of trains is still very low both for Trenitalia and for Ferrovie Nord Milano (about 8%).
  • The percentage of equipped trains that every day circulate is very low for both companies, that is about 30% on the total amount (consider that in each train you can find one or maximum two equipped coaches)
  • Cases have been pointed out of equipped coaches for disabled people that didn’t have all the above mentioned characteristics in order to be completely accessible. Sometimes the coach has steps inside. As a consequence it is necessary to use a lifting truck for getting on and off a disabled passenger. In other cases, acoustic and visual signals for the sensory disabled were not present or out of order.

Points of strength

  • New trains are always designed to have at least an equipped coach for disabled passengers (even if sometimes acoustic and visual signals for the sensory disabled are out of order).

 

RAILWAY STATION ACCESSIBILITY

A railway station is fully accessible when it allows a disabled person to go independently and in total safety from the car park to the entrance and from the entrance to the main areas of the infrastructure: ticket office, waiting room, toilets and platforms.

Points of weakness
  • The lack of an official mapping of the degree of accessibility of railway stations in the Lombardy Region represents a great obstacle to the use of railway transport by disabled passengers.
  • Information on the accessibility of the means of transport taking to the station is not clear and reliable;
  • Very often ticket offices are too high to be used independently by people in wheelchair. This is also true for the display and keyboard of automatic ticket offices.
  • Sometimes direction signs inside railway stations are not very clear to all passengers, to the detriment of the independence  and mobility of disabled travellers.
  • Only few stations have tactile maps and tactile paths to favour the independence of blind and visually impaired people.
  • In some stations or on some platforms acoustic announcements cannot be easily understood because of the low quality of sound.
  • Some stations are considered an “artistic wealth” by the Academy of Fine Arts, thus limiting their restoration. As a consequence several architectural barriers cannot be eliminated (for example, flights of stairs, fixed barriers, and isolated steps). It is not even possible to put aids in order to avoid them.

The way from the station’s entrance to the platforms is one of the most critical points as far as accessibility is concerned. To get to the different platforms, “able bodied” people generally use subways, with one or more flights of stairs. Rarely subways have a working lift or a stairlift. Consequently, disabled passengers cannot use them. Therefore, in order to reach the desired platform, they get across the tracks by using a footbridge. In this case, for safety reasons, they need to be accompanied by the railway station staff. This solution implies a lower level of safety and decreases the disabled traveller’s independence.

  • When coaches have a low floor (that is without steps in the entrance), for a disabled passenger to be completely independent the platform should be on the same level as the coach’s entrance. On the contrary, in many stations platform’s height is lower than needed and this requires planning a number of interventions (for example, the use of a lifting truck).
  • Not all the stations considered in the survey have disabled toilets. In the stations where the survey revealed this lack, they are now working to build them. Sometimes to use the toilet you need to ask for the key to the staff: This is sometimes not easy for a disabled passengers travelling alone.
  • A luggage transport service is not present in none of the stations considered in the survey.

Points of strength

  • Most stations considered in the survey have at least a parking area with fee with several free car parks reserved to disabled people. The car park and the station are on the same level linked by a pedestrian path. Obstacles that can be met along the way. Most of the times they are isolated steps that can be avoided by using ramps.  The path can be covered by crazy paving, thus making the way for a person in a wheelchair difficult.
  • Access to the stations considered in the survey is generally granted. When the station entrance has barriers, such as flights of stairs or isolated steps, it is always possible to enter the station by a secondary entrance or by using a ramp. Unluckily, secondary entrances for disabled people aren’t clearly shown by suitable direction signs and it is difficult to find them.
  • All stations considered in the survey have waiting rooms. The only exceptions are the stations of Varese FS and Brescia (just temporarily for works in progress). All waiting rooms are accessible but the ones in Lecco and Como Nord have a step to reach the first platform.

 

TIMETABLE INFORMATION ON THE ARRIVAL OF EQUIPPED TRAINS

The presence of this information in official timetables is a key element in order to grant a real mobility and independence of disabled passengers. Here are the points of strength and weakness of the two transport companies working in the Lombardy region: Trenitalia e Ferrovie Nord Milano.

TRENITALIA

Points of strength

  • Trenitalia has an official timetable where equipped trains are marked with the wheelchair pictogram.
  • Such information can also be found in Trenitalia website www.trenitalia.it or by calling the call center  (tel. 892021)

Points of weakness

  • Trenitalia does not foresee the possibility for a customer to require an equipped train on a line that, according to the official timetable, have a normal train. This is an element of non flexibility of the service: a passenger in a wheelchair can only use equipped trains even if these are in days and times that are not suitable for his/her needs.

FERROVIE NORD MILANO

Points of strength
  • Ferrovie Nord Milano’s official timetable points out equipped trains with a note and a disabled passenger has to book the assistance service an hour in advance.
  • It is possible to know the arrival/departure time of equipped trains by calling the Customer Care service (tel. 199151152  this service is for all passengers), or by consulting the website www.ferrovienord.it/tamtam/
  • All “Malpensa Express” trains, connecting Milano Cadorna to Malpensa Airport - Terminal1, always have an equipped coach. 

 

Points of weakness

  • It is desirable that Ferrovie Nord develops a communication policy that might be more explicit and specifically thought for disabled people: specific information for disabled people cannot be found in the website and in leaflets.
 
 

ASSISTANCE SERVICE FOR DISABLED PEOPLE IN DEPARTURE/ARRIVAL STATIONS

Both Trenitalia and Ferrovie Nord Milano provide an assistance service for disabled passengers for getting on and off the trains.
The service can be booked ahead, by following a procedure that is different according to the operator, but such procedure is always necessary for people in wheelchair.
The advance required is generally rather long and this doesn’t allow disabled persons to decide to undertake a journey in short terms.
It would be better if both companies (Trenitalia and Ferrovie Nord Milano) could reduce significantly the advance required for booking the assistance service.

Let’s now analyze the points of strength and weakness of these two companies.

TRENITALIA

 

Points of strength

  • In its website www.trenitalia.it , by clicking “Servizi per disabili”, Trenitalia offers specific information for disabled passengers and a printed leaflet called “I servizi per la clientela disabile” is available at all ticket offices.
  • In order to use Trenitalia’s assitance service, you need to book it before your journey  by calling number 199303060, or by going directly to the Centri di Assistenza (CAD), in all stations offering the service. The call center automatically redirects the call to the “master” station of the region from where you are making the call (e.g. Milan for the Lombardy region). The assistance service for disabled passengers is then activated by the master station.
  • For journeys connecting all main Italian stations, when departure time is between 6.00 and 22.00, booking can be made an hour in advance (in all other cases booking should be made 12 hours before departure time)
  • In addition to getting on/off operations, the service offered to disabled passengers also implies being accompanied to a bar and to a disabled toilet.

 

Points of weakness
  • The assistance service can be required only for those trains for disabled people that are marked on Trenitalia’s official timetable. 
  •  Except for few cases, the assistance service must be booked at least 12 hours in advance.
  • Trenitalia cannot grant such service in all stations. Generally the service is present in all most important stations but in order to promote and increase the mobility of disabled passengers it would be better if this service could be extended to all stations.
  • By consulting the website or the paper leaflet dedicated to disabled passengers, it isn’t always easy to understand which stations are granting the assistance service, particularly when dealing with minor stations.

 

FERROVIE NORD MILANO

Points of strength
  • A disabled person must always book the assistance service by calling the Customer Care Service (tel. 199151152) dedicated to all customers. For trains that in the official timetable are marked for the transport of disabled people, the disabled passenger can book the service an hour in advance.
  • For those trains that are not assigned to the transport of disabled people, Ferrovie Nord allows disable passengers to ask for the assistance service at least 3 working days in advance and 5 working days in advance when dealing with groups. Then it reserves the right to verify the possibility to grant the journey on the day and at the time required. With such procedure, Ferrovie Nord can grant a higher flexibility of the service because the company verifies the possibility to satisfy a disabled passenger’s specific request even when equipped trains are not planned.

Points of weakness

  • Ferrovie Nord Milano cannot grant this service in all stations. Generally the service is granted in all main stations. But to really promote the mobility of disabled passengers it is necessary to extend the service to all stations.
  • On the railway line “Brescia - Iseo – Edolo” this service doesn’t exist.