Train operating companies have been blasted for failing to hit a deadline to make all trains accessible to travellers with mobility issues.
The firms were supposed to have modified or introduced new carriages that make it easy for wheelchair users, or those who need assistance to get aboard, by the start of 2020.
But because many of the new trains ordered by firms such as Northern and Transpennine Express are late in being delivered, the Government has been forced to issue dispensations to allow the out-dated carriages to continue.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to the Rial Delivery Group which represents operators and said: “It is deeply frustrating that disabled passengers will still be waiting into 2020 to see accessibility improvements to some services.”
He extended the period of grace until the end of the month but said operators must provide alternative transport for disabled people such as taxis where non-compliant trains have to be used.
Blackpool-based Stephen Brookes, Rail Sector Champion for the Minister for Disabled People, said disabled people did not have the same freedom on the railways that others had.
He said: “Train companies and industry stakeholders have had more than 10 years to ensure such a change would happen, and it is deeply unsatisfactory that we are still faced with inaccessible rail journeys in several parts of the country.
"The existing culture of blame cannot and will not be accepted as a prolonged excuse. We need a fully accessible rail service for everyone and further delays will not be accepted.”
Dominic Lund-Conlon from the Rail Delivery Group said: “We want everyone to be able to benefit from train travel.
“Rail companies are replacing half of trains new for old with the roll out of 8,000 new, and hundreds of upgraded, carriages to make the railway more accessible to more people.
“However, we know there’s more to do. Every passenger is different and when our trains don’t meet their needs and expectations, we will provide extra assistance, better information and alternative transport such as taxis.”