Accessible Travel Policy
Making rail accessible for older and disabled passengers
Making rail accessible
All passengers are welcome on our train services and we're committed to providing a safe and comfortable journey for everyone.
If you don’t travel by train often and you have a disability, reduced mobility, or need extra support travelling with us, you may have some questions about what we can offer. This leaflet has been designed to help answer those questions, and help you find more information if you need it.
Southeastern runs train services from the Kent and East Sussex coast into south east and central London, including Britain’s first high speed domestic service.
This leaflet explains what assistance is available to customers who want to travel with Southeastern, using our trains and stations. The following pages contain information on:
- How you can book assistance
- The assistance we can provide – and what we can’t.
- Where you can get more information if you can’t find it here.
- What we will do if things do not go as planned
Southeastern is part of Passenger Assist – a national system that all train companies support, which allows us to make arrangements to assist our passengers with disabilities or restricted mobility. This is both for journeys on our network and where you’re connecting with other operators.
We’re committed to this system and we have a dedicated team who will help you book assistance.
For immediate travel
We understand that planning in advance isn’t always possible – you can turn up at any station that is accessible to you and request assistance onto a train from a member of our staff. If the station doesn’t have staff you can get in contact with us by calling Passenger Assist or using the help points located at all of our stations.
In Kent and East Sussex the train services have conductors and all of our High Speed services have On Board Managers.
We’ll do everything we can to make sure that you’re assisted as your needs require. If a train service isn’t accessible to you, we’ll provide alternative accessible transport at no extra cost.
It may take longer to make arrangements if you haven’t booked in advance.
When travel is arranged in advance
For journeys planned in advance, you can book assistance through Southeastern (as well as any other train company) for journeys that are either direct or involve connections and other train companies on the National Rail network.
To book assistance you’ll need to book at least 6 hours in advance of the start of your journey.
Our Passenger Assist team is available 24 hours a day, and every day except Christmas Day. They can also be contacted by filling out a form on our website. Once you have made a booking you will be given a confirmation number, a copy of the booking can also be sent by email.
Not all Southeastern stations are accessible or staffed. Some of our trains are also Driver Only Operated (DOO), which means that there is no conductor on board.
When booking assistance to or from these stations, especially on DOO trains, we will do everything we can to ensure you get the help and assistance you need. We are introducing flexible staff on our network who will be able to assist people at stations or on or off trains when there are no other staff available.
Further information on these staff is available under the ‘stations with no staff’ part of this leaflet. If a station isn’t accessible we can provide, at no extra cost, alternative accessible transport, such as a taxi, to take you to the most convenient accessible station.
Ways to book assistance for your journey
- Call: 0800 783 4524
- Text Relay: 18001 0800 783 4524
- Online: via the Passenger Assist form on our accessible travel page
(Available 24 hours a day, every day except Christmas day)
The levels of assistance we’re able to provide
There are a number of ways in which we can help you when you’re travelling with us:
- Help with planning your journey, including details of the accessibility of all stations across the National Rail network.
- Advice about the facilities you’ll find on the different types of train that Southeastern or other train companies operate.
- Providing information about timetables, including during times of engineering works when there are changes to the normal service and travel may involve buses.
- Advice on other support we can give you and how they work, like Sunflower Lanyards, Just A Minute (JAM) cards, and Priority seating cards.
- Providing advice on how to use a mobility scooter or a wheelchair on our network, including details of how to obtain a copy of our wheelchair and scooter guide document.
- Assistance with getting on and off the train – for example if you need guiding due to a visual impairment, or if you’re a wheelchair user and need a ramp.
- Help with luggage, when booked in advance.
- Getting through the station, to your platform, boarding the train, making connecting services and onward transport within the station area.
- The wheelchair spaces on our trains cannot be reserved. However, if you’re travelling with a long distance operator it’s advisable to ask about reserving a space as they are often very busy and allow wheelchair spaces to be booked.
- Buying tickets: these can be purchased when booking assistance – however this needs to be at least 72 hours in advance if you wish for them to be posted to you. Collection from a ticket vending machine is another option but you will need to wait for two hours after your booking before they become available.
- How to make a complaint or feedback about great service you have received.
We’ve made sure that our contact centre staff are trained to help all of our customers and provide the best possible assistance, including customers with both visible and non-visible disabilities.
We’ll do all that we can to assist you making your journey, but we’re not able to accompany you throughout your journey. We’re unable to provide personal care such as help with eating, taking medication or using the toilet. If you need this support when travelling, you should travel with a companion.
Sunflower Lanyards and Just a Minute (JAM) cardsSoutheastern have been trialling Sunflower Lanyards and Just a Minute (JAM) cards. By wearing a Sunflower Lanyard or showing a JAM card, our staff will know discretely that you have a non-visual disability and may need some extra help.
We are continuing with this initiative in 2020 and recognition has been widened out across our network. You can get a Sunflower Lanyard or JAM card free of charge from us, if you have a disability, either by picking one up from your local ticket office or requesting one through our Customer Services.
Southeastern will provide you with the information you need to plan ahead and will take account of your individual accessibility needs. You can do this by contacting our Passenger Assist Team by phone, online or by contacting staff at stations.
Buying your ticket
Our Passenger Assist team will be happy to help you with purchasing a ticket when booking assistance. You can buy tickets online as well as book assistance through our web booking form.
We have ticket gates at some stations, so you will often need a ticket to get onto the station platform. When the gates are closed, staff will always be present.
Please note there are no wheelchair spaces in any of our trains with first class. When purchasing a ticket, our staff at the ticket office will advise you of this. If purchasing online or via our ticket vending machines, a warning will be displayed.
You can buy a ticket:
- At a ticket office: Most Southeastern stations have a ticket office where you can buy tickets and get advice in person on any aspect of train travel. Opening times vary, so please check our station information page.
- At a ticket vending machine: You can find these machines at all stations. You can buy a ticket here using a debit or credit card, and cash on some machines. The buttons and controls are now all within reach of wheelchair users. They sell a wide range of tickets including discounted fares for railcard holders and their companions. You can also collect tickets you’ve bought online.
- By phone: by calling us on 0800 783 4524
- Online: via our ticketing website
Smart ticketing with The Key
The Key is Southeastern’s contactless smartcard, which means you can buy and download your tickets at home and it allows you to fast-track through the station and avoid the queues. Using the Key you can buy single, return and season tickets and you are also able to buy tickets for most other train companies across mainland Britain and TfL.
You can pick up your Key card at a station ticket office or order online.
Please note that tickets discounted with railcards requiring multiple travellers and group save are not available on the Key.
Where possible, you must purchase a ticket before boarding a train. However if you are disabled and haven’t been able to purchase a ticket before travelling, for a reason related to your disability, you will not be subject to a penalty fare. You’ll be able to purchase the full range of tickets available to you, including any appropriate discount that applies either on board the train, or at your destination.
Discounts and railcards
We participate in a number of national railcard schemes offering discounted fares such as:
- Senior Railcard
- Two Together Railcard
- Family and Friends Railcard
- Network Railcard
- 16-17, 18-25 & 26-30 Railcards
- Disabled Persons Railcard
The Disabled Persons Railcard (DPRC) gives holders a third off a range of rail fares for themselves and one accompanying adult. For further information:
- Visit a ticket office to pick up a leaflet
- Call the Disabled Persons Railcard office on 0345 605 0525 Textphone 0345 601 0132
- Or visit www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk
Discounts are available to blind or vision impaired passengers travelling with a companion, and for those people who remain seated in their own wheelchair for a rail journey and don’t have a railcard. These tickets can’t be bought from a ticket machine, but have to be bought at a ticket office or from on train staff.
For passengers registered as blind or vision impaired, an adult season ticket can be purchased that enables an accompanying companion to travel at no extra cost. It doesn’t have to be the same person travelling on every journey.
Tickets can only be purchased from ticket-office staffed stations and evidence of your visual impairment is needed to prove your eligibility. No discounts apply to season tickets for disabled people.
Please be aware that Freedom Passes and the associated discount to London Boundary Zone 6 are valid on Southeastern services, but can’t be used before 09:30 Monday to Friday.
The Southeastern app
We also have a journey planning app for iOS and Android phones, through which you can access personalised, real-time information and super-fast journey planning for all UK train journeys. The Southeastern app enables you to quickly see your common journeys, platform changes and live departure information. You can also buy train tickets to anywhere in the UK, buy and load Key Smartcard tickets from your phone, and quickly claim Delay Repay compensation. The app will alert you when there is disruption or changes to the timetable, such as during engineering work, and give details of bus replacement services.
We are developing a new accessibility-focused Travel Companion mobile app in 2021 that will offer disabled passengers real time assistance and guidance whilst planning and undertaking their journeys, and it will improve the ticket booking process.
Station facilitiesWe’re responsible for 164 stations on the rail network and we’ll continuously improve the facilities available at those stations. This includes, but isn’t limited to, lifts, ramps, escalators, accessible counters, induction loops at ticket counters and elsewhere, toilets and accessible toilets, waiting room and shelters, and accessible seating. You can find information about these facilities and what is available on our station information pages by selecting your specific station. As well as at the National Rail website, where information on facilities for all Southeastern stations and those of other train operators is available.
At a staffed station
If you need assistance when you arrive at a station, please make yourself known to station staff where available. Staff will be available from the information point on the platform, or the ticket office or gateline (if there is one) at staffed stations. The meeting point for Passenger Assist at Southeastern stations will usually be the ticket office or the gateline. Our Passenger Assist Team will explain where you need to go when you book assistance.
We recommend you arrive at the station at least 20 minutes before your train leaves. Some stations may advise longer, but this will be explained when booking assistance. If you arrive by car or taxi, we can help you from the station car park drop-off area, or a blue badge parking space. We can’t help if you are outside the station area.
We can also carry a maximum of two items of luggage onto the train – up to 23kg each. Please book this in advance through our Passenger Assist team. You can also bring a small item with you free of charge if you’re able to carry it independently.
When the train arrives, we will make sure you are successfully boarded with any luggage that you may have, and help you get to a seat or to a wheelchair space. All staffed stations have portable ramps available on the platforms, or we’ll use one from the train (all of which have on board ramps available). We’ll deploy these for you if you need step-free boarding. If you think the ramp would make boarding easier for you, let the team know when booking assistance (or let a member of station staff know on the day as early as possible).
If arriving at a station by train, our staff will assist you from the train and to the exit of the station including bus stops or taxi ranks on the station forecourt for onward journey’s. They will also help you to your connecting train service if interchanging at the station or will take you to a member of the London Underground staff should you require their services.
At stations without any staff
The vast majority of our stations have staff for some part of the day, although some of our stations may be unstaffed, or only staffed when the ticket office is open.
When using one of these stations where there are no station staff available, if there are staff on the train, the Conductor or On Board Manager will provide assistance to you for getting on and off the train.
You can check staffing times of the station and whether help is available from on train staff on our station information page or by checking the station information poster.
If help is available from on board staff, our Conductors or On Board Managers can provide assistance when needing to board and alight a train, so please remain in a prominent position on the platform and attract the attention of the on board staff.
They will look out for customers on the platform who may require assistance and if you have booked they will have been notified and will be looking out for you. However they cannot assist you in getting to or from the car park, or with other assistance on the station due to the limited time that trains stop at stations.
We are introducing a team of roving staff who can be deployed to provide assistance to board our trains and to help at our stations when stations are unstaffed. They will be based at key locations throughout our network. The team will provide assistance whether it has been booked or not, however, to reduce waiting times we advise you to arrange your assistance in advance.
If you’re boarding a train at a station which is unstaffed and there are also no staff on the train to provide assistance, by booking in advance we can send someone to the station, like one of the roving staff mentioned above, to assist you or arrange for a taxi to take you to the nearest staffed station to continue your journey. The available options will be discussed and confirmed with you when booking.
If you haven’t booked and the station or train doesn’t have staff who can assist you, you can get in contact with us by calling our Passenger Assist Team on 0800 783 4524 or use the help points located at all of our stations and appropriate assistance will be arranged.
Inaccessible stationsSome Southeastern stations have no step free access from the entrance to the platforms or don’t have step free interchange between the platforms. Where you’re unable to physically access the station, we’ll provide alternative transport (such as a taxi) – at no extra charge – to take you to the nearest accessible station if, for example, you’re a wheelchair user and need level access. Visit our station information page for details of step free access at stations.
Train facilities and on board staffYou can find out information about the different facilities on our accessible travel page including the availability of priority seating, the number of wheelchair spaces, and accessible toilets by train type. You can also find more information about the two main types of train service we operate, Driver Only Operation or trains with Conductor/On Board Manager Operation.
Priority seatingAll of our trains include clearly labelled Priority seating, for people with reduced mobility or who are pregnant or less able to stand. Priority seats have extra legroom and can be identified by labels above and on the back of the seat, as well as on the window.
We’ll provide assistance where possible to help passengers into a seat or a wheelchair space. Booking assistance cannot guarantee a seat and spaces will be subject to availability, especially on busy commuter trains.
Where staff are available on board, they will monitor these areas and ensure that passengers who need them can get priority seats.
Priority seating cardWe offer a Priority seating card which assists disabled passengers in getting a seat, by removing the need for them to explain why they need a seat. Download your Priority seating card application form or pick one at ticket offices, or by calling our Passenger Assist service.
Seat reservationsWe don’t offer seat reservations on our trains. For passengers making journeys on long-distance services with other train operators, we encourage booking seats in advance with them to guarantee getting a seat.
Audio and visual informationAll of our trains provide automatic visual and aural information, including announcing the stopping pattern of the route and ‘next’ station announcements. Automatic announcements now mean we can tell you when the train divides on route, including coach numbers so you are able to check which part of the train you are in.
Our on board staff are also trained to make announcements relating to stations and delays that may affect the service. Details of what’s available on the different types of train are listed under train facilities.
Oxygen cylindersIf essential, small, portable oxygen cylinders can be carried on our trains.
Assistance dogsAssistance dogs can accompany you at our stations and on our trains. We can provide a train ramp should you and your dog need one.
On board toilets
Those of our trains that have toilets on-board will also have at least one wheelchair accessible toilet.
Trains running on our London metro routes do not have a toilet on-board. These are our Class 376 units and they usually only operate on routes where journey times are shorter than one hour. There are also a small number of two-coach trains (Class 466 units) that have only one, non-wheelchair accessible toilet on board. We will only ever run these when in formation with a Class 465 unit that does have an accessible toilet.
All toilets on trains are fitted with fold-down baby changing tables.
We have recently introduced a feature to our Customer Information system, that also works through our Southeastern app, and that is an automatic update of toilet availability on our trains.
This is a ‘live’ system and it collects data from the train on the availability of the on board toilets and it is relayed through our next train information system. Through the customer information at the station, both visual and aural, or through the app, passengers will know whether the on board toilets are working. It will also specify whether it is the accessible or standard toilet that is available.
This helpful system will help passengers to better plan their journeys.
Wheelchairs and mobility scooters
All our trains have dedicated wheelchairs spaces. We welcome wheelchairs and mobility scooters up to 1200mm long and 700mm wide and they can travel in the space provided.
We use train to platform boarding ramps that are available on all our trains and have a combined (user and chair/scooter) weight restriction of 300kg.
Our dedicated wheelchair spaces are located in Standard class accommodation. They are near the accessible toilet and can be identified by the wheelchair symbol on the nearest door to the spaces.
Our staff know that it is wheelchair users’ priority to occupy the wheelchair space and will ensure that they are able to make their journey.
Some mobility scooters can have large dimensions, especially if they are the Class 3 type (road legal). Unfortunately, these vehicles are unable to travel safely on our trains and were never meant to be carried on public transport. They are unable to safely manoeuvre into the wheelchair space that was created for mobility aids up to 1200mm long and 700mm wide.
If you are unsure whether your mobility scooter is suitable for our trains you can contact Customer Services team.
Our larger stations also have mats on which a scooter can be measured to ensure it is suitable to be carried. The reason for these restrictions is the safety of our staff, our passengers and ultimately yourself.
Further information can be found in our wheelchair and mobility scooter guide and in our Accessible Travel Policy. Other train companies may require a permit to use a mobility scooter on their trains. Please ensure you check with all operators whose trains you are using, through their websites and their Accessible Travel Policies.
Assistance on arrivalWhen you get to your destination, staff will help you to get off the train as soon as possible. If staff can’t get to you straight away they’ll help you off the train within five minutes of the train’s arrival.
Delays and disruption
We’ll keep passengers informed if:
- There are delays over five minutes.
- Station stops are cancelled or altered.
- The train is being taken out of service before it reaches its final destination.
Sometimes the departure platform can change at short notice. If this happens we’ll allow time for disabled passengers to get to the new platform. You’re advised to inform a member of staff if you need help getting to the new platform as soon as you’re aware the platform has changed.
Where you’ve booked assistance and there’s major ongoing disruption, we’ll make all reasonable efforts to contact you to make alternative arrangements.
If there’s disruption you’ll find that all of our replacement buses are wheelchair accessible and built to the modern accessibility standard (known as the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations). On a rare occasion where we are unable to source a PSVAR compliant bus we will ensure that Accessible Alternative Transport, likely to be a wheelchair accessible taxi, will be available on standby so you do not have to wait any longer than you would for a rail replacement accessible bus.
Should lifts, toilets or other amenities be unavailable we’ll publish the information on our website and through National Rail Enquiries, as well as at the station. We’ll do all we can to make other facilities available.
Sometimes things outside of our control means that there may be disruption to your journey. If this happens, we’ll assist you to make sure you’re able to continue your journey and that you’re not left stranded.
We’ll make sure you’re kept up to date through our website, social media and announcements, both on the train and at the station.
Our staff, both at the station and on the train, will help you as required and have been trained to assist all of our passengers. They’ll communicate disruption either over public address systems, or in person where available. Many of our staff also have smart devices, so can help you re-plan your journey and check the accessibility of that journey if the route is different from the one you had originally planned to take.
If using a smart phone you can download the Southeastern app and access real-time train running information on our WiFi network.
What information can I get?
- Details of the train you're travelling on and the current location.
- The calling pattern of your train and expected arrival times at each station.
- Details of any delays, including revised arrival times and the reason for the delay.
- Details of other transport connections, including the status of the relevant London Underground connections.
Redress and compensation
When you have booked assistance and it has not been delivered at one of our stations or on a train you were travelling on or due to travel on, we want to hear from you so we can investigate what has gone wrong. There are many ways to get in contact with us, which are listed below and contact forms are also available from our stations if required.
We’ll provide you with appropriate redress for your journey, which may include a refund of your ticket or vouchers. We’ll also let you know how we’ll work hard to prevent the same issue happening again. In cases of multiple assistance failure with a number of operators during a single multi-leg journey we will co-ordinate a single response. If the bulk of the assistance which was booked failed to be provided by another operator on whose train you were travelling or due to be travelling, we will transfer the claim to them with your agreement.
To make a claim please use one of the following options:
Telephone: 0800 783 4524
Text Relay number:18001 0800 783 4524
Southeastern Customer Services
PO Box 10422
We’ll always comply with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and, in line with National Rail Conditions of Travel, we’ll consider all additional compensation claims for any losses or extra cost caused by a service failure. This doesn’t affect your legal right to make claims under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, although you must not seek to recover the same money twice (for example, from both our complaints process and the Consumer Rights Act 2015).
Alternative versions of this leaflet:
This document is available in the following formats:
- Printed copy
- Large Print
- Easy Read
All of these versions can be downloaded from our website or sent within seven days by post if required.
Sunflower Lanyard or JAM card:
- Visiting any Southeastern staffed station, and asking a member of staff.
- Filling out a contact form that you can find on our website.
- Calling Customer Services.
Priority Seat Card:
These can be applied for either online or by contacting Customer Services.
Our Accessible Travel Policy:
This document sets out in more detail our commitments and standards of service provision, as well as relevant policies and practices, with regards to disabled people using the rail network and can be found on our website and in alternative formats.
Customer Services (Available 24 hours a day, every day except Christmas day):
Call: 0345 322 7021
Text Relay number:18001 0345 322 7021
Passenger Assist service and day of travel queries or issues:
Call:0800 783 4524
Text Relay number: 18001 0800 783 4524
How to contact us via social media:
How to get involved with us to help improve accessibility and inclusivity:
Drop us a message with how you would be interested in getting involved firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0330 094 0363
Post: Freepost – RAIL OMBUDSMAN
Accessible Travel Policy Document (Word version) – January 2021
Accessible Travel Policy Document (PDF version) – January 2021
Accessible Travel Policy Document (Large Print version) – January 2021
Accessible Travel Policy Document (Easy read version) – January 2021
Accessible Travel Policy Document (Audio version) – January 2021