Online journey planner ‘difficult to read’ after going grey for Philip

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·2-min read

The decision to convert online train journey planners to greyscale as a mark of respect for the Duke of Edinburgh has been reversed following widespread criticism.

Passengers, rail staff and disability charities complained that the removal of colours from the websites of National Rail Enquiries (NRE) and individual train firms over the weekend made timetables difficult to read.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which runs NRE, said it reinstated colours at 10am on Monday after “listening to feedback”.

The switch to greyscale went beyond Government guidance for the period of national mourning following the death of Philip, which only suggests organisations use “black edging or black banners”.

Screengrab of the National Rail Enquiries website
The greyscale and normal version of the National Rail Enquiries website (National Rail Enquiries/PA)

NRE’s Twitter account received a barrage of angry messages following the initial change.

Users described the decision as “utterly ridiculous”, and said it made train timetables “extremely difficult to read”.

Others claimed the switch breached disability discrimination laws.

Theatre practitioner Ruth Phillips, 25, who has mild dyslexia, tried to buy a ticket through NRE for a future work trip, but gave up after finding the website “really hard to navigate”.

She told the PA news agency: “Certain colour schemes I find quite difficult. Definitely the lack of contrast is what made it really hard.”

Ms Phillips said she was “disheartened” that “a very big organisation like this isn’t thinking about the accessibility”.

In response to a passenger asking on Twitter if there was a way for users to change the website back to normal, an NRE employee wrote: “Unfortunately, I do not believe there is,” adding: “I too have been struggling to read while it is coloured differently.”

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Elisabeth Ward, accessibility specialist at disability equality charity Scope, said it is “vital” that paying respects “doesn’t stop disabled people from accessing essential services”.

She went on: “Accessibility always matters, even in a period of national mourning.

“This decision to change entire websites to greyscale did not consider disabled people’s access needs. It’s another example of disabled people being forgotten.

“Not only does it cause problems for those who need sufficient colour contrast, but it also interferes with tools and plugins many disabled people use to help make websites accessible.”

She added that public sector organisations “have a legal duty to make sure nobody is being blocked from using vital services and information”.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said: “It is possible to mourn for Prince Philip without making life even more difficult for disabled people and workers to use our railways.”