The Netherlands national rail operator, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), is planning to upgrade 131 of its Sprint Light Trains to make them more accessible for passengers with reduced mobility and visual impairments.
Using a consortium formed between Bombardier-Siemens to carry out the work, NS will update its trains to have easily deployable sliding ramps for improved entry and access, two more spaces for wheelchairs and wheelchair-accessible basins in the toilets. Also fitted are a new range of wheelchair-height emergency buttons and a series of information similar to braille that helps the visually impaired navigate through the train.
The train overhauls, the first two of which have already entered service, were completed following close interactions with two Dutch advocacy groups Ieder and Oogvereniging (Eye Association), from initial designs to testing phase.
The upgrades will take place at the former Bombardier site at Talbot Services in Aachen in Germany, where NS’s original fleet was built, and will be completed two trains at a time in around two weeks. The final train is predicted to enter service by the end of 2021.
There was no mention of upgrades to stations as many injuries and deaths occur to people with disabilities falling off platforms onto the tracks.
The work in The Netherlands to make rail more accessible for all follows other European efforts, with the UK government announcing earlier this month that it would be committing £300 million of funding to make transport more inclusive. The Department for Transport published a report on the matter – The Inclusive Transport Strategy: achieving equal access for disabled people, that formed part of the UK’s plans to get one million more people with disabilities into work by 2027.
In order to help deliver those improvements, the multimillion-pound investment would be used for what it called rail accessibility improvements up until 2024, continuing to funding in mobility centres that offer clinical expertise to those looking to increase their independence, and also subsidizing around £1 billion in concessionary fares for older and disabled people.