What is the Campaign for Family Friendly Trains?
The Campaign for Family-Friendly Trains is a group of parents and carers working for better facilities for children and families on the UK rail network. We have all had negative and challenging experiences of travelling with babies and young children on UK trains. We believe trains offer a great opportunity for family friendly travel, but at the moment, there are challenges such as storing prams, embarking and disembarking and booking appropriate tickets.
What are you asking for?
We want the rail network to be designed with the needs of families in mind. We have summarised our main priorities here.
What are the benefits of having specific facilities for families on the UK rail network?
Train travel has considerable benefits over alternatives such as driving for families. It is possible to breast/bottle feed a child, have a meal, visit the toilet or change a nappy on a train without having to pause a journey. Since parents don’t have to concentrate on driving, families can enjoy the time together and make the journey part of the adventure.
Who loses out the most from not having family-friendly facilities on UK trains?
The failure to provide adequate space for prams and pushchairs, and other family-friendly facilities, on UK trains is indirectly discriminatory against single parents, women (who are more likely to travel alone with children), and families on lower incomes (who may not be able to afford the ongoing costs of car ownership).
What’s the situation in other countries?
Across Europe there are many examples of family-friendly facilities on trains. Countries such as Germany, Austria, France, Finland and Italy have dedicated spaces for pushchairs at a minimum and many of these countries have designated areas or whole carriages suitable for families, where young children can crawl, walk and play. We’ve gathered a list of case studies here.
Why don’t parents buy or hire a car for long journeys instead?
Not everyone can drive and not everyone can afford to own a car. For families without the sunk cost of car ownership, train travel is cheaper than buying or hiring a car, and an environmentally conscious generation of parents knows that train travel is the better choice for protecting the environment for their children. For some destinations driving is the more difficult option, for example it is often easier to use public transport to get to/from central London and other large cities across the UK.
Why can’t parents fold up the pushchair and store it on the train?
A pushchair or pram isn’t just another piece of luggage that can be easily stored in a rack, but a space for children to sit and sleep during the journey. The lack of space for pushchairs and prams is a significant barrier to train travel for families with babies and young children, especially for parents or carers travelling alone. Stories shared by parents indicate that sitting on a vestibule floor with a sleeping child in a pushchair is a common experience. Babies and young children up to the age of five may nap for several hours during the day, and most will be happiest doing so in their familiar pushchair or pram. No parent wants to have to wake their child before a long train journey. It is also unrealistic (and sometimes dangerous) to expect parents to fold their pushchair while also dealing with their child and luggage, especially if travelling alone.
Why can’t parents use the disabled space on trains?
By law, wheelchair users have priority over pushchairs and prams on trains. This is the only space wheelchair users can travel safely on a train and all passengers should know and respect this. While parents sometimes use the space for their unfolded buggies if there is no wheelchair user on board, it’s not an ideal solution for a parent to know they may have to move from the space mid-journey. Uncertainty over the availability of space for a pram or pushchair (even if the parent holds a mandatory seat reservation) is cited by parents as a barrier to train travel. It would be far better for trains to have a separate dedicated space for unfolded prams and pushchairs, with seating for parents/carers nearby.
Why not use a sling instead of a buggy?
While many parents enjoy wearing their baby in a sling, not all parents use a sling and mothers with pelvic floor problems after birth are sometimes advised by medical professionals not to use one. Slings add extra weight on the shoulders, which on a long train journey could be uncomfortable, and wearing a sling can make it difficult for a parent to use the toilet on a train. It is often more comfortable for a baby and parent to stand rather than sit whilst wearing a sling, which makes its less feasible to comfortably take longer train journeys.
Which rail companies / routes are the best for family-friendly travel?
Long distance services across the UK are extremely poor for family-friendly travel and companies that operate trains on long-distance routes (+1 hour) need to step-up their game. Metropolitan and commuter services (e.g. TfL) tend to have better facilities as they already have a reduced number of seats to accommodate standing passengers, which by accident creates a good space for pushchairs. However, even these services could improve by having signs onboard and on the outside of the train to indicate which areas are the most suitable for pushchairs.
Who should I contact about my recent experience on a train?
Train operating companies (e.g. Avanti, GWR, LNER etc.) have a customer facing role in the rail system so it is worth making them aware of your experience of travelling with your child. You can contact them via their website. However, the best thing to do is contact your Member of Parliament about your experience because it’s the Department for Transport that holds more power to make train travel more family friendly. We’ve put together a short guide to writing to your MP here.
What can I do to support the Campaign for Family Friendly Trains?
If you’re a parent/carer and you’d like to share your story please get in touch or tweet us.
If you’d like to help out with the campaign please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org