Friday 1 October 2021

Interview with Paola Negri: fighting for rail accessibility

The European Year of Rail sheds light on the future of rail, but is rail truly an accessible transport mode for all?

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Ms Paola Negri, Chairperson of PASSAGE (Passenger Accessibility Solutions Support and Action Group for Europe) at UIC, answers our questions on what rail accessibility means to her.

Part I: About yourself

1) Can you introduce yourself?

I gained several years of experience in customer assistance and services within Trenitalia’s Long-Haul Division. From 2009 to 2011 I managed activities relating to the application of the Passenger Rights Regulation (Regulation 1371/2007) and the PRM assistance process, including customer care, staff training, asset and equipment maintenance. During that time, I had also the opportunity to participate in international working groups at CIT and CER relating to customer care services and PRR implementation.

2) What motivated you to work on rail accessibility?

In 2011, following an agreement which assigned responsibility for PRM accessibility services to the station manager (RFI) within the FSI Group, I was involved in monitoring the value of PRM assistance services offered to Trenitalia customers to ensure that they were in line with the high level of standards required.

I have been working with the UIC PASSAGE Group since 2013, and have held the role of Chair since 2018. I am delighted to be able to continue sharing initiatives and best practices with this special team of experts from 20 railways from across Europe and North America, dealing with passenger rights issues in relation to accessibility. I really enjoy the enthusiastic spirit of the PASSAGE group and working with people making real efforts to cooperate, make progress on initiatives and make useful contributions to UIC’s international activities.

Part II: Accessibility in railways

1) Can you explain what the UIC PASSAGE Accessibility Working Group is?

PASSAGE is a group of experts on accessibility that brings 20 UIC members from Europe and North America together to address the obligations arising from national and international regulations.

This network allows the members to share and improve common practices and learn from each other in dealing with this very special type of assistance in the most cost-effective manner. Such cooperation contributes to bridge accessibility gaps.

Our vision is to have a European network of rail transport service providers that is truly sustainable and accessible. In this context, the main objectives are:

  • to create and safeguard professional exchange among railway stakeholders in relation to specific measures aimed at improving accessibility for PRMs
  • to provide evidence and practical and efficient solutions in response to a given need, thus facilitating those members seeking support in implementing accessibility for PRMs
  • to proactively adopt the best possible interfaces between legal requirements and practical management and delivery of rail services to older and disabled passengers
  • to learn from other best practices within the transport industry and evaluate the extent to which their solutions may be implemented by railway undertakings

2) Do you think railways are currently accessible to all?

There is still a lot to be done to ensure universal and autonomous accessibility for rail passengers. Changes require time and resources that are often limited. The good news is that seamless and accessible mobility is now recognised as one of the most important issues for innovation and research within the railways and is directly related to the growing importance of the customer experience.

How would you improve rail accessibility?

PASSAGE came into being because we recognised, as railway companies, that we had a common interest and a common purpose not only in fulfilling legislative requirements but also in improving processes and services, sharing them among railways and infrastructure managers in order to devise better decisions and provide improved services to all customers.

In my opinion, our commitment is a pre-condition for achieving true harmonisation. Exchange of information and best practice can help operators and infrastructure managers to look ahead to successfully develop accessibility as one of the priorities for the railway market. Digitalisation will be also an excellent tool to facilitate development, innovation and growth and to significantly improve accessibility over the next few years.

Part III: About UIC Rail Accessibility Day

1) The UIC Rail Accessibility Day will take place on 5 October. What does it hope to accomplish?

In the framework of the European Year of Rail, UIC, the worldwide railway organisation, is hosting this one-day international event online to make the various stakeholders aware of the efforts being made and the challenges to be faced by the railway community in order to comply with the legislative framework for accessibility for all customers.

With the mottos #YesWeCare and #YesRailCares, the 2021 Rail Accessibility Day will raise awareness of the importance of inclusion for the future of sustainable mobility, with rail as its backbone, without leaving anyone behind and with a special focus on supporting vulnerable customers, increasing confidence in rail travel for everyone, ensuring a seamless and safe journey for all and using digitalisation to foster autonomy. The results and conclusions from the event will reinforce dialogue and concerted efforts to tap in to opportunities.

The event will be attended by representatives from various international organisations, institutions, industry and railway companies, which will contribute to an interesting debate.

UIC intends to promote the idea of the railways as the mainstay of a future sustainable mobility vision to eliminate key barriers with the objective of offering seamless transport services adapted to all.

To find out more about the UIC Rail Accessibility Day, please visit the event page.

If you have any questions, please contact Ms Vanessa Pérez, UIC Senior Advisor Passenger Department:

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