We want the rail network to be designed with the needs of families in mind. Our priorities are:
Reservable space for prams and pushchairs
Our main ask is for dedicated space on trains for unfolded prams and pushchairs with seating for parents/carers nearby.
Space for unfolded pushchairs would avoid parents juggling children as they board, waking up sleeping babies or frantically trying to unfold a pram as they reach their destination.
The seat reservation system should be extended to include at least some of these spaces (like the wheelchair and bicycle spaces). This would allow parents to be able to book tickets with confidence that their needs will be met on the journey.
The space for unfolded pushchairs should be clearly marked on the train so that all passengers understand that is intended for use by families with young children
The pushchair space may include foldable seats to allow the area to be used by others at times that families are less likely to travel, for example late at night.
The area for pushchairs should be clearly marked on the train exterior so that parents know where to board.
Rail services in other countries show that these proposals are possible.
Family-friendly toilets and baby changing
Toilets should be designed so that they can be used with and by young children.
Parents may be travelling alone with children who they will not be able to leave unattended in the carriage. Therefore toilets must be spacious enough to accommodate a parent and children, including an unfolded pram or pushchair. In practice the existing accessible toilet is likely to meet this requirement so all pushchair spaces should be near to an accessible toilet.
Some parents with young children may choose not to travel with a pram or pushchair or it may not be possible to take it to the toilet. There should be somewhere to put a baby or toddler to keep them secure while a parent uses the toilet.
Baby changing tables should not fold down over the toilet, and should include straps to secure a child.
For older children who can sit unsupported, a strap-in toddler seat can ensure that a child is restrained while the parent uses the toilet. This is important because the bright buttons used on modern train toilet door locks and passenger alarms are very appealing to young children!
These seats should be included in all accessible toilets.
Children who are potty trained or are in the process of being potty trained will use the toilet on the train. However this can be daunting for young children due to the large gap in the toilet seat and the movement of the train. Toilet seats that include an integrated toddler seat are available and should be installed in train toilets. The toddler insert can be folded away when not required.
Step free access and level boarding
Step free access is required for parents to be able to safely access the platform with a pushchair.
The gap (both vertically and horizontally) between the train and platform edge can be difficult to negotiate with a pushchair, especially when travelling as a lone adult and with other children.
We support the Campaign for Level Boarding to introduce a rolling programme of platform improvements, low floor trains with extendable gap fillers, and to agree to a target of 2040 to achieve level boarding across the rail network.
Level boarding means that children and parents can board independently without further help or fear of someone or something falling between the train and platform.
Playful waiting rooms
Families are likely to want to arrive early at the station to allow for any unexpected delays. If things go wrong on the rail network, they may also need to wait for longer. A train station waiting room is a safe place to pass the time. Unfortunately many recently renovated waiting rooms are sterile places with little to entertain young children.
Simple play equipment such as a wall toy or play table uses little space but can entertain a young child while they wait for the train. We would like to see play equipment in waiting rooms, at least in medium and larger stations.
A great example of a family-friendly waiting area is the Family Lounge at King’s Cross station, which features a slide and model railway!