Two train operators have taken “significant steps” towards helping families with young children travel, but “others badly lag behind”, according to a new report.
The Campaign for Family-Friendly Trains heralded the progress of LNER and Merseyrail, claiming they demonstrate “the potential for all train operating companies”.
The lobby group assessed factors such as the availability of dedicated space for unfolded pushchairs, step-free access, baby changing facilities and information for families.
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Merseyrail was praised for introducing new trains which accommodate unfolded pushchairs throughout by the use of wide aisles, single seats with space for a pushchair next to them, and exclusive pushchair bays.
The operator, which has a contract issued on behalf of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, was also praised for having level access between trains and all platforms via a sliding step once the rollout of the new fleet is completed later this year.
LNER was commended for pledging to never order a new train or undertake a refurbishment without providing a dedicated space for unfolded pushchairs.
The Campaign for Family-Friendly Trains said: “Merseyrail, a commuter network, and LNER, a long-distance operator, have both taken significant steps towards introducing family-friendly facilities and services.”
The organisation’s report also stated that Southeastern was Britain’s only train operator advertising that Passenger Assist – a service for train users who need extra support – is available for families travelling with young children. and not just those who are disabled or elderly.
The group claimed seven train companies which failed to respond to its questionnaire for the second year in a row were either “not interested in the difficulties faced by families with young children” or it is a “very low priority” for them.
They were Chiltern Railways, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, London Northwestern Railway, South Western Railway and West Midlands Railway.
The report highlighted a “deeply worrying” trend of operators attempting to claim dedicated spaces for wheelchair users on trains are “multi-use”, meaning they can be used for unfolded pushchairs.
It stated: “They are spaces protected by law for wheelchair users and not genuine multi-use spaces.
“For operating companies to suggest otherwise pitches people with different accessibility needs directly against each other.”
Parents often use these areas due to the “woeful lack of other space” but this is a “cause of worry and anxiety throughout the journey” as they may be asked to move by a wheelchair user, according to the report.
Alice Delemare Tangpuori, a spokeswoman for Campaign for Family-Friendly Trains, said: “It is encouraging to see companies like Merseyrail and LNER travelling in the right direction.
“Their scores show some train operators take the issue of family-friendly travel seriously, whilst others badly lag behind.
“Like LNER has done, we want to see more operators pledging to never order a new train or undertake a refurbishment without providing dedicated space for unfolded pushchairs.
“UK train operators can no longer feign ignorance about the issues that parents with young children face, but there is still considerable work to be done to ensure the UK rail network is family-friendly.”
A spokeswoman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said: “We want everyone to be able to travel by train to be there with their loved ones for those precious family moments.
“Train companies have taken in the valuable Campaign for Family-Friendly Trains’ feedback and it’s good to see that positive changes have been acknowledged in the latest report.
“We want to make the railway more accessible to all, and rail companies are determined to help and improve journeys for families.”