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Accessibility and informational barriers to an age friendly railway

Charles Musselwhite (Centre for Innovative Ageing, Swansea University Swansea United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland)
Kelly Roberts (Centre for Innovative Ageing, Swansea University Swansea United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland )

Quality in Ageing and Older Adults

ISSN: 1471-7794

Article publication date: 13 September 2021

Issue publication date: 11 October 2021




Against a backdrop in an increase in the number of older people in the United Kingdom (UK) and an increase in the amount of travel per person for this age group, the number of older people using the railway is in decline. The purpose of this paper is to report on an investigation is a first step towards ascertaining why through audits of issues and problems on rolling stock and station platforms.


Rolling stock and station audits were carried out by older people across a rail network in the South West of the UK. A total of 72.2 hours of auditing took place across different sizes of station and different types of rolling stock.


Two main themes were found across both rolling stock and station audits: accessibility and information provision. With regards to accessibility, boarding and especially alighting from the train was the key issue. Across stations and in rolling stock luminance, was a key issue for older people with places being too dark or moving from places that were bright to dark. Use of stairs at stations between platforms, especially when the station is crowded was an issue. In terms of information, key issues were found with signage being too cluttered, small, hidden and inconsistent and audible announcements being difficult to decipher.

Practical implications

There must be improvements made to railways to help older people feel more safe and secure using them. It is suggested step free and level accessibility is found boarding and alighting from the train, but also from station entrance to carriage. Better signage is needed throughout the station and on trains, with large repeated fonts used. Lighting needs to be revisited throughout to ensure areas are bright and well-lit both on station platforms and onboard. Further research needs to look at these findings in relation to slip, trips and fall accident rates.


There is very little research on older people’s perceptions and barriers to railway use. This adds value in being one of the only studies to do so, especially from the perspective of older people themselves as co-researchers.



Musselwhite, C. and Roberts, K. (2021), "Accessibility and informational barriers to an age friendly railway", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 114-129.



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