3.7 Disruption to business as usual

Occasionally, there may be disruptions to the usual operation of the public transport system. Examples are cancellations of services, closure of a train line or busway, weather related disruptions such as severe storms or fog, vehicle breakdown, replacement of a train with a bus service, or evacuation of a vehicle or station due to an emergency.Disruptions can be planned or unplanned. A planned disruption is generally well managed with advance notice, and alternate transport arrangements can be put in place to minimise disturbance as much as possible.

Unplanned disruptions are generally more difficult to manage as information about the nature of the disruption and alternate arrangements can be difficult to source and communicate.

When disruption occurs, people should be made aware of the situation, how they should respond, and whether there are alternative arrangements in place for them to complete their journey.

People with disability say that disruptions are highly stressful and the possibility of disruption is a significant barrier to their participation in public transport journeys.

Aspirations for this journey part

  • People with disability are no more impacted by a disruption than their fellow travellers.
  • People with accessibility needs know where to go or who to ask for information and assistance if there is a disruption.

How can we achieve this?

3.7.1 Disruption management planning

Managing disruption should consider people with accessibility requirements. This includes involving people with disability in planning and training evacuation activities so that management plans appropriately address the range of accessibility needs. This planning, testing, training and evaluating should be undertaken for a range of disruptions, from a broken lift to a major emergency.

Processes should be implemented so that any change to the environment within the vicinity of public transport infrastructure is assessed to determine its impact on accessibility. This should not presume any degree of familiarity with the environment and be equally accessible to a new, intermittent, regular and overseas user.

3.7.2 Communication

Communicating disruptions should be across multiple platforms. For example, a person who is blind or has low vision may not be able to see a sign that provides details about a disruption which can cause confusion about the situation. A person with a hearing or cognitive impairment may not hear or understand an announcement. The WA Public Transport Authority has introduced a smart phone based warning system to alert commuters to service disruptions, and this initiative has gone some way to addressing the-issue.

Ideally communications systems need to integrate the disruption notification across the whole journey and its parts—journey start to end and back to the start again. In practical terms, this would integrate notification of pathway disruptions due to council road works, or utility company works, which result in public transport system and interchange disruptions. Creating an online space where people can discuss the accessibility of a particular stop/station/interchange can be an effective way to support continued improvement in the whole journey. This can be achieved in partnership with public transport owners and operators.

Where vehicle replacement is needed due to a planned or unplanned disruption, it should be based on prior contingency plans which aim to provide the same level of accessibility as the original vehicle. For example, bus services that are replacing a train should be accessible, not replaced with high floor coaches. Where this is not possible, any change to accessibility should be clearly communicated and aids and assistance provided to enable access that ensures affected passengers are not unduly inconvenienced, for example, wheelchair accessible taxis.

Vehicle replacement should consider and provide guidance around situations where insufficient low floor buses and coaches are available and how the operator should manage such situations. This would include ensuring a percentage of replacement vehicles were accessible, having taxis on standby, and staff available to manage vehicle access and provide timeframes for the next accessible vehicle to arrive.

3.7.3 Help/meeting point

Providers should consider implementing a help/meeting point (with an accessible path to the area) in major stations, terminals and interchanges so people can seek assistance, especially during disruptive events. This area should have customer service staff or fully accessible help phones, and be visible, accessible and easy to navigate towards.

3.7.4 Real time information

Real time information about the nature of the disruption and alternate arrangements/expected wait times should be provided via screens, audible announcements and apps.

3.7.5 Customer service

Customer service staff need to be trained on the importance of notifying patrons of changes, disruptions and emergencies, with particular focus on user groups that may require additional assistance.

3.7.6 Acoustic environment

During a disruption, the acoustic environment is likely to be more cluttered than usual because more people are being clustered together within an area and potentially with other environmental noise (e.g. thunder and rain from a storm). Disruption management planning should also consider this interference within the acoustic environment and have strategies for clear and concise audible announcements during events.

3.7.7 Vertical transportation

Management plans should be prepared for any disruption to lift or vertical access. These should identify alternative ways to change floors where possible (see section 3.5.4).

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