I C Berkshire (UK).
Thursday, May 04, 2006.
RED tape has forced a fleet of trains off the rails - because the text on information signs is 3mm too short to comply with disability laws.
South West Trains (SWT), which runs services through Wokingham, Bracknell, Ascot and Sunningdale,will have to remove its three eight-carriage Juniper trains in July.
This is because the digital signs on the trains, which show destinations, were built one year before a disability law deadline timetable was introduced in 1998.
The Parliamentary disabled persons' transport advisory committee rejected SWT's plea to extend the deadline - so rather than pay £750,000 to upgrade the signs, the trains are being removed completely.
The carriages are used to ease overcrowding and congestion at peak times. Cllr Robert McLean, Bracknell Forest Borough Council's commuters' champion, catches the train into London Waterloo for work.
He said: "Clearly, I'm concerned by the inconvenience this will cause to passengers.
"I'm not sure whether the human eye appreciates 3mm.
It may be that research has gone into identifying the optimal size to assist visually impaired passengers.
"But if it's more to do with bureaucracy, then I think it's laughable. It would be funny if it were not so serious."
He said he could under-stand why SWT did not want to upgrade the signs as the cost would be passed on to passengers. Earlier this year the DfT announced that SWT would get an extra 17 Desiro trains for its network to ease overcrowding.
SWT spokeswoman Simone Spinks said the transport committee's decision would just hasten the removal of the Juniper rolling stock.
She said: "Keeping the Juniper trains running was a safety net while the new Desiro trains bedded in. It was always our intention to return these trains but clearly we will have to return them in July."
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