According to a decision by the Swiss Federal Administrative Court, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) must ensure that every new-built long-distance train has at least one ramp for boarding and disembarking that does not exceed a gradient of 15 per cent.
The decision comes after an objection from Inclusion Handicap, the umbrella association of disability organisations in Switzerland, which was raised against the fixed-term operating licence for SBB’s new-built double-decker "FV-Dosto" trains. Having conducted a comprehensive analysis of the relevant legal bases, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court (FAC) is partially approving one of the eleven legal requests still in dispute and rejecting the remaining ten. The parties were able to settle four of the fifteen points originally contested outside of court.
The partially approved point is concerning the gradient of ramps. According to the FAC, it is not clear whether all ramps on double-decker trains comply with the maximum permissible gradient of 15 per cent. However, the applicable standard only requires one ramp per train to comply with this maximum, assuming a flat and straight platform.
Instructions from the FAC
The FAC therefore requires SBB to ensure that at least one boarding and disembarking ramp per train complies with the standard, permitting the access to the wheelchair space including a universal restroom suitable for wheelchairs and to any catering areas. The place for boarding and disembarking in question must be marked with a corresponding wheelchair-icon.
The Swiss Federal Office of Transport (FOT) will have to check whether and which ramp gradients on the FV-Dosto trains comply with the standard. In the event that there is not at least one compliant ramp gradient per train, the FOT will have to decide under consideration of proportionality, whether to adapt the existing ramps or have SBB staff assisting passengers boarding or exiting the train.
This judgment may be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court.
Details of the proceedings to date
The FOT issued fixed-term operating licences for SBB’s new-built double-decker trains in November 2017, valid until the end of November 2018. Inclusion Handicap filed an objection including fifteen legal requests to the FAC. It argued that people with disabilities travelling alone would face too many obstacles on the train in question. The FAC then waived the suspensive effect of the complaint in its procedural rulings of 14 February 2018 and 6 March 2018, therefore allowing SBB to put the double-decker trains into operation for a fixed period until the end of November 2018.
On 15 May 2018, judges from the FAC inspected one of the trains in question at Romanshorn station in order to getan idea of the objections raised in situ. Nine people with disabilities also took part in the legal inspection alongside the parties to the proceedings. In early November 2018, the parties to the proceedings informed the FAC that they had been able to agree on four points: to mark the difference in level at all points of transition between coaches; to add an anti-reflection coating to vehicle monitors for passengers; to mark seats reserved for passengers with a disability more clearly; and to introduce a tactile guidance-system throughout the trains. The court was therefore not required to make any further decisions regarding these four legal requests.