Brno, Dec 17 (CTK) – Only one fifth of railway stations in the Czech Republic, or 504 of them, are a least partly accessible to wheelchair users and generally the situation in railway transport is not good for these people, Ombudsman Anna Sabatova told a press conference today.
She said there is no legal instrument to force the railway operators to make their services more accessible for people who are wheelchair-bound. She added that she would like to introduce such an instrument. “There is only a regulation saying that all railway carriages produced after 2008 must be accessible to these people,” Sabatova said.
The state-run rail operator Ceske drahy (CD), which is the biggest rail operator in the country, has 70 percent of carriages accessible to wheelchair users, and all the carriages of the Leo Express operator are accessible to them. The RegioJet did not have any accessible carriages for a long time. Now it declares on its website that it equipped the trains going from Prague to Ostrava, north Moravia, and Zilina, Slovakia, with mobile platforms thanks to which people bound to a wheelchair can board the train.
Sabatova said RegioJet must enable that wheelchair users get on its new express train line from Brno to Bohumin as this condition is set in its contract with the Czech Transport Ministry.
Transport Minister Vladimir Kremlik (ANO) said in October that his ministry would sign express train contracts with railway carriers only if they enabled wheelchair-bound people to use the trains.
A part of the trains of the Arriva and GW Train Regio operators are accessible to wheelchair users, according to Sabatova.
Sabatova admitted that it would take some time to improve the situation, but she said sufficient attention is not paid to this issue.
The biggest problem with railway stations is with old stations in small towns and villages.
Sabatova said train accessibility is key for other rights of wheelchair-bound people. “So that they can go to work, attend school, visit their relatives,” she said.
She said wheelchair users often must announce their trip one or two days in advance and the mobile platforms are accessible at train stations only in limited hours.
Sabatova said railway carriers should pay more attention to blind and deaf people and people with moderate mental disabilities.