Research project explores how rail transport can be improved for disabled people

Stephanie McPherson-Brown

Stephanie McPherson-Brown

University news / Research news

Thursday 18 January 2024

Press contact

Press Team

A research project exploring how the UK’s rail network can be improved for disabled people is being run as part of a unique PhD programme at Coventry University.

Funded by the Motability Foundation, the research aims to improve disabled people’s experience of using transport. The research, supported by the university’s Research Centre for Future Transport and Cities, is being undertaken by Stephanie McPherson-Brown. 

Stephanie’s research is focusing on the psychology behind why disabled people can feel reluctant to use trains to get around, and what can be done to improve this.

As part of the project Stephanie is interviewing people with a range of disabilities to find out about their experience with rail travel. She is also reviewing the support available and report whether it is good enough and offer recommendations on how this can be improved.

Stephanie’s research project follows the release of statistics from the Department for Transport showing that 31 per cent of disabled people in the UK do not use rail, of which 42 per cent said they were unlikely to use rail in the future.

There are all sorts of reasons why disabled people might not want to use our railway network – be it stations not providing reasonable access, travellers feeling anxious about having a negative experience during their journey, or even the general reliability of our trains.

Growing up, I’ve experienced my own share of negative experiences on public transport, such as dealing with stations with poor accessibility or a lack of information around disabled provision at stations when looking online.

I often forced myself to battle through it and not make a fuss. It was only when I reflected on it that I felt much more could be done to improve things.

If my research can paint a picture of the problems people are dealing with, identify the key areas to improve and offer solutions that will be a great first step in improving how disabled people get around.

Stephanie McPherson-Brown

Further research planned by the first group of PhD students researching transport and accessibility will look into how air travel and personal transport can be improved for disabled people.

The goal of the accessible transport PhD programme is to enable disabled people to be at the forefront of researching solutions to the problems they have to deal with every day when travelling.

We are looking forward to seeing what Stephanie and her fellow students’ research uncovers, and we hope it will be the start of valuable and insightful work that creates lasting changes in society.

Professor Paul Herriotts, who is leading the PhD programme

The project coincides with other work into transport design and accessibility being undertaken at the university. Coventry University, alongside collaborators, has been chosen, to develop and run the UK’s first National Centre for Accessible Transport (NCAT) – which is working with disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, transport providers and policy makers to both undertake research and develop accessible travel solutions.

Find out more about the Coventry University’s Research Centre for Future Transport and Cities and the National Centre for Accessible Transport.