Blind man struck by train after falling off platform with no tactile strips

By Lizzie May

Rail bosses have been urged to install tactile strips after a blind man has died falling off a platform and being struck by an oncoming train.

A 53-year-old man fell from platform one at Eden Park station in Beckenham on Wednesday after he moved near to the platform edge.

A report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch said that his visual impairment meant he was probably unaware that he was close to the edge.

He was struck almost immediately after he fell by the 7pm Southeastern service from Hayes to London Charing Cross.

The platform edge was not fitted with markings intended to assist visually impaired people.

Emergency services staff were unable to determine whether the power supply had been turned off to allow them onto the tracks, resulting in a 12-minute delay between arriving on the scene and providing medical care.

RAIB outlined that a combination of railway company guidance meant that safety-based justifications for platform edge markings that aid visually impaired people were not effectively considered by the railway industry.

Tactile strips are found at most underground tube platforms and provide a distinctive surface to alert people with low vision.

Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents recognised that the immediate provision of tactile strips could be very expensive, but a necessary step.

He said: “This tragic incident resulted in the death of someone who had impaired vision and mobility and relied on the railway to transport him safely.

“Our investigation concluded that the absence of a tactile strip along the platform edge may have been a factor in this accident.

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

The RAIB made recommendations to improve railway accessibility, including Network Rail, the Department of Transport and Office of Rail and Road.

Mr French continued: “While accessibility has rightly been promoted in recent years, it is important that safety is properly considered when the industry is looking at facilities they provide for disabled and impaired passengers.

“We are urging a re-think on the approach to provision of tactile strips to ensure that they are installed where most needed.

“My thoughts are with his family, and others who knew and were close to him.”

The charity Guide Dogs for the Blind has welcomed the findings and urged the government to act quickly to make public transport safer for those with impaired vision.

Clive Wood, Lead Regional Policy and Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, said: “Guide Dogs would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.

“We welcome the key findings from today’s report and urge the Government and rail industry to act without delay in implementing the recommendations to prevent tragic incidents like this from happening again.

“Tactile surfaces are vital in keeping people with sight loss safe at railway stations, but more than a third of stations do not have them in place at the platform edge.

“Today’s report acknowledges this was a contributing factor in the death of Mr Gervais and confirms the need for the government and trail industry to act now.”

In response to the publication of the report, Labour’s London Assembly Transport Spokesperson, Dr Alison Moore AM, said: “It should not have taken this very tragic accident to expose the fact that improving accessibility and eliminating deaths and serious injuries on our transport network go hand in hand.

“The recommendations of today’s report could not have been clearer. We must now see a clear strategy from the Department for Transport and Network Rail, that goes beyond their current Access for All scheme, to ensure that tactile surfaces are installed on all rail station platforms in the capital.

“I am also backing the calls made by London TravelWatch for an audit of stations with and without tactile paving to be urgently published.

“Right now, we need to see interim action from rail bosses aimed at ensuring that disabled and visually-impaired passengers using stations, with no tactile surfaces and low accessibility, are given the additional help they need”.

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