Network Rail – some thoughts about inclusion

Thank you for this opportunity to submit some thoughts for your work. There is an extremely hoary and ancient joke that someone asked how to get somewhere. Ah I would not start from here.

Karl Popper wrote:

“I think that there is only one way to science – or to philosophy, for that matter: to meet a problem, to see its beauty and fall in love with it; to get married to it and to live with it happily, till death do ye part – unless you should meet another and even more fascinating problem or unless, indeed, you should obtain a solution.

But even if you do obtain a solution, you may then discover, to your delight, the existence of a whole family of enchanting, though perhaps difficult, problem children, for whose welfare you may work, with a purpose, to the end of your days.”

I understand the Renaissance concept of Opera, where people work together closely to resolve the issues they face, from a participatory, equal, just, co-operative, sustainable, mutual and whole system perspective might be a valuable way forward.

More information about my experience and background is here

The Three Domains

Network Rail has core responsibilities towards a transport system. Transport systems are part of processes that enable people to live well together – civilisation.1

There are three core domains that need to be taken into account in creating civilised ways of being:

• Buildings
• Space between buildings, and
• Transport networks

There are historic issues about how we have done things, how we do things now and how we plan to do things are not necessarily logical and coherent. The kluge2 is a classic way of getting things to work, often very valuable but maybe things in complex adaptive dynamic systems might be different?13

It is not obvious that the governance and professional structures we have reflect or acknowledge the existence of the above domains, for example “Life between Buildings”4 sometimes being a transport related responsibility, at others planning related.

Subjects are often liminal or involving transitions and rites of passage, for example like purchasing tickets and using entrance gate technology at stations and boarding trains.

Where there are conflicting ways of thinking or conflicting objectives, or conflicting governance agencies and rules, these may not be being acknowledged and then thought about and managed.

Holistic Government

Demos5 have written:

The core problem for government is that it has inherited from the nineteenth century a model of organisation that is structured around functions and services rather than around solving problems.

Budgets are divided into separate silos for health, education, law and order and so on.

The vertical links between departments and agencies in any one field and professional groups such as the police, teachers, doctors and nurses are strong.

The horizontal links are weak or non-existent.

Air Safety Management

Another transport sector has developed some interesting proposals to tackle the above silo issues6:

“European Aviation Safety Management

The system in Europe for ensuring aviation safety is mainly based on a set of rules that is overseen by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and National Aviation Authorities, which have been developed after years of experience. This reactive system was effective for many decades in delivering not only a very good safety record for aviation in Europe but also one that has steadily improved.

However, as the aviation system has grown more complex, regulatory compliance as the mainstay of safety has reached its limit. To maintain the current low level of air accident fatalities, the European Union must ensure that the rate of air accidents continues to decline in order to match the continued growth in number of flights.

Both at international and European level, the need was recognised for moving towards a system that is evidence-based and proactive and provides for a systemic approach to safety; in other words, the introduction of the ‘Safety Management’ concept.

Safety management systems’ requirements have been introduced in EU law and cover most aviation domains. In addition, the EU has regulated the reporting, analysis and follow-up of aviation safety occurrences, which is an essential component of a proactive and evidence-based safety system.

Reporting, analysis and follow-up of occurrences in civil aviation

Aviation accidents are often the result of a chain of events, meaning that often they cannot be attributed to a single cause. However, this also means there are multiple opportunities to prevent them before they occur and if any link in such a fatal chain is removed, then an accident may be avoided.

Therefore, beyond accident investigation, the crucial element in preventing aviation accidents is reporting and careful analysis of all events and failures, even the smallest, in daily operations, which may indicate the existence of potentially serious safety hazards that may lead to accidents if not corrected.

Occurrence reporting takes a system-wide and data-driven approach to accident prevention and recognises that moving beyond blame, except in certain defined situations, is essential in enhancing safety in a proactive way – these notions have been confirmed through decades of safety and human factors research.”

What Is Inclusive Design?

As well as looking in detail at everything as above in the aircraft transport safety process, not only from a safety perspective but also from an inclusive perspective, maybe the gestalt, the overview, the environment should also be considered at the same time?

I believe Network Rail is making a critical mistake in all its strategies in that it is not thinking through properly all its relationships and asking are there not synergies? This means its inclusion strategies are also weak.

Inclusive Design

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.7

A core concept of the disability world is the idea of barriers. These may be physical, institutional intellectual and attitudinal. The idea of an equality impact assessment is to think through clearly what issues someone might face and what physical, legal and behavioural changes may be appropriate.

Thinking carefully about someone over their life cycle and on a day to day basis, and looking carefully at what happens, how and why, and how it may be different is very valuable.

My experience is like the curate’s egg. There are parts of the movement and transport systems that are impressive; other parts – especially streets and roads are in a backwater. It is not obvious that all the players have even received the message that “Houston, we have a problem”.

Network Rail is undertaking excellent work, but might it be unnecessarily limited in its vision?

What precisely is being moved onto, along and off the metal tubular spaced structures that connect places? I think these can be categorized in six main groups:

• The rolling stock – the containers that move along the tubes and their propulsion processes
• People
• People and the stuff and other people they have with them
• Small stuff
• Medium sized stuff
• Large heavy wet difficult stuff

All of these categories require different moving and handling and transferring and transition and storage processes, for example, parents with buggies and shopping, waiting rooms and tea rooms, cycle storage, wheelchair access from street to platform to train. I discuss these issues in more detail here8.

I have always been puzzled why good solutions from other sectors do not easily transfer. What seems to be missing are whole system perspectives59, and looking at what already is and asking how might that be tweaked?

Railways are already moving and handling the complexities caused by people and the stuff they need, immediately and in the future, and in fact pre Beeching had a huge variety of tools for these tasks. What seems to have happened is that this huge brilliant “tangled bank” of an ecosystem was wiped out and now has very few remaining species. What should have happened is that the badly overgrown garden should have been tended and managed, not cut down. One does not close down veins in a body.

I understand rail has huge capacities to move things and people, far more than the inefficient individualized small scale processes of road.

Network Rail should define precisely and in very great detail what is being moved where how and why and by what. Where is something produced and why? How do we move it from where it is produced to where it is needed?

Why have we duplicated systems and not connected them? Water, (sea river, canal), rail, tram, hgv Lgv?

Why are not railway stations local distribution points and hubs for not only for people and but also light goods?

What happened to containerisation? Why hasn’t it been scaled down? Why are there not standard sizes of luggage, of baby buggies, of packaging?

Why not have local 3d printing and local production at railway stations?

Instead of wasted journeys because people are not in, why not use some car parking spaces for local secure stores per street and parts of streets?

Why do we not have local super caretakers, porters with general responsibilities to look after geographical areas? These logically could be railway staff so that responsibility for an entire journey of a person, a thing or both together is managed together over the whole process, including the management of the space between buildings. I understand this happens in Japan

Electric assist Cargo trikes and similar as in Zermatt would work from the railway station distribution hubs to the local secure stores (at bus and tram stops?) on timetabled circular routes, like the Swiss postal service, and also able to take people.

Skilled workers would be able to hire the equipment and tools they require from the local railway distribution hub using just in time systems, and have it delivered to where it is needed when. Why do we have vans moving chaotically around our cities? The computerized processes are well developed and rail is obviously a key part.10

In the early 70’s I worked as a hospital porter. My duties included moving things and people – including coffin trolleys to the outside mortuary at 3 am on a January night, and people to and from theatre using lifts that were used jointly for people staff and things.

Thinking about it most access issues were solved, not all, the hospital engineers were in a first floor portakabin up outside iron steps :-).

But my point is, the need to move things very often requires inclusive standards and surely costs become far more reasonable if there is joint use.

Arguments about using the goods lift are easily resolved by cosmetic and simple health and safety processes as required.

Is my impression that inclusion and moving and handling things have evolved separately incorrect?

Why does there not appear to be synergy with appropriate design details for variances in needs?

Instead of spending considerable sums on inclusion, why are not the same processes used, tweaked as required, for example with timing, control, and cosmetic processes to separate activities as required?

Trains and systems could easily be designed to enable automatic loading and unloading, as has been happening with coal for fifty years.

Clive Durdle


1.Rose, J. F. The Well-Tempered City » Jonathan F. P. Rose. at <;
2.Marcus, G. Kluge, The Book, by Gary Marcus. at <;
3.Intelligence in the Flesh: An Interview with Guy Claxton – Yale University Press London BlogYale University Press London Blog. at <;
4.Life Between Buildings | Island Press. at <;
5.Perri, 6. Holistic Government. Demos (1997). at <;
6.Safety Management – European Commission. at <;
7.Oecd & Ocde. Improving Transport Accessibility for All. (2006).
8.Durdle, C. Transforming the access experience of Disabled People – Clive Durdle’s Blog. at <;
9.Meadows, D. H. Thinking in Systems: A Primer. (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008). at <; – Bicycle Culture by Design: Massive Passenger Increase After Bikes Allowed Free on Trains. at
6 December 2016Network Rail Some thoughts on inclusion.docx

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