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APPDG Notes from seminar on Transport and disabled people: realising independence and full participation

11 February 2013 14:00 – 17:00, Attlee Suite, Portcullis House


Purpose: to look at the role of transport in disabled people’s lives and what more needs to be done to ensure it facilitates the outcomes of realising independence and full participation. This meeting brought together policy makers, transport operators, passenger groups and disabled people.

The event was sponsored by First Group UK Bus, with contributions from Allied Vehicles and Department for Transport.

In chair: Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group.


Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (14:40-15:00 only)

Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Barbara Bedford, Customer Services and Communications Director, First Group UK Bus

Liz Chandler, Corporate Development Director for Merseytravel

Will Bee, Director of Will Bee Consultancy

Louise Ellman MP, Chair of Transport Select Committee

Exhibition: Allied Vehicles, Department for Transport, First Group UK Bus, Guide Dogs, Passenger Focus, Transport for All

Key issues:

-         The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires government to take action to make transport accessible, and to involve disabled people in the development and implementation of policies to make the Convention rights real.

-         Getting disabled people involved from beginning means better design and effective delivery of transport policies and services – which will be cost-effective and value for money.

-         Transport barriers affect people with a range of impairments not just few groups with visible impairments, and steps must be taken to tackle the barriers for the diverse group of disabled people.

-         Failure to deliver accessible transport must be addressed through an effective complaints system and sanctioning.

-         The Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 delivered significant improvements in accessibility and attitudes. Genuine investment in training and facilities is needed to keep the legacy going and to sustain the momentum towards accessible and inclusive transport.

-         Partnership working is vital to realise accessible transport; this involves local and national government, disability groups and disabled individuals, transport executives and operators.

What the speakers said:

Barbara Bedford, First Group UK Bus:

Barbara stated that working in partnership with a range of organisations, including disability groups, disabled people and the government was essential to improving accessibility. She felt that whilst there may be a need for further legislation, infrastructure development and capital expenditure, it was often the simplest things that can have a big impact and be implemented very quickly such as the Safe Journey Card.

Barbara also highlighted the work that First Group have done including:

-         Safe journey card (with Age UK)

-         Doing Transport Differently (with Disability Rights UK)

-         Bus design (outside of London)

-         DVD on dementia (with Alzheimer’s Society)

Norman Baker, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport:

Mr Baker spoke of the importance of transport to disabled people and that it was important to be aware of the diversity of people with disability. He spoke about the DfT’s publication of the Action Plans in December 2012[1]. Whilst stating that Britain has come a long way in improving transport and are ahead of most other countries, he admitted that there was still a long way to go.

For more information on what the Department for Transport is doing, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/topics/transport

This includes an investment of £100 m on accessibility of railway stations; development of the Transport direct journey planner; better awareness training and guidance on the use of mobility scooters.

Maria Eagle, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport:

Ms Eagle suggested that more needed to be done to help disabled people access services. There is a need to get disabled people’s views before policy is made – by getting disabled people involved early, the Department will avoid mistakes being made – thus save money in the long run. She flagged up the important role of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) in providing expert advice to the Government and this role must not be lost. Transport needs to be taken into account in assessing the impact wider government policies on life opportunities, for example the Personal Independence Payment and access to the Motability scheme.

Maria highlighted the following grievances with the DfT:

-         Investment undermined because £ 500m money taken out local transport fund which used to allow local councils flexibility to spend it on accessibility. The DfT returned £500m to HM Treasury.

-         The deadlines of buses/coaches and trains are being pushed back because of the lack of pressure that is being applied

-         Mandatory bus driver training shelved by using the 5 year exemption in the EU regulation on bus and coach passenger rights (118.2011)

Will Bee, Will Bee Consultancy:

Will highlighted attitudes as a growing barrier overtaking physical accessibility of public transport. He felt there should be sanctions against operators if they did not provide a good service. Also, he suggested that disabled people are having a very unpleasant experience using public transport and that non-disabled people are getting away with abuse and intolerance. This needs to be addressed. Will warned that bad experiences are driving disabled people away from public transport and they will be less likely to find out about accessible transport. This would force them to look for less accessible travel options. Bloody-mindedness should not be an essential criterion for disabled people to travel. Will suggested solutions to build confidence of disabled people to travel such as rehabilitation strategies, using personal budgets for travel training.

Liz Chandler, Merseytravel

Liz Chandler spoke about the work Merseytravel have done in relation to improving accessibility, and the work that the organisation is undertaking to make transport in Merseyside customer focussed. She mentioned that Merseytravel is undertaking more disability awareness training both for its own staff and through its Merseylearn Project to wider transport staff. Furthermore, Merseytravel have a personalised booking service, with travel buddy and door to door services; aiding people with disability to realise independence and participation. The work with Stop Hate UK was also mentioned, as part of its travel-safe initiative where an advertising campaign had been launched to encourage reporting of discrimination and harassment on the transport network. Merseytravel support ensures audio-visual information is available, accessible bus boarding points, accessible rail stations and a comprehensive concessionary travel scheme.

Louise Ellman, Transport Select Committee


The Transport Select Committee has launched an inquiry into disabled people’s access to transport, in particular looking into the effectiveness of legislation in this area. The purpose of the inquiry is finding out how current legislation is operating and what changes need to be made.  So far, written evidence has suggested that many disabled people may have anxiety pre-journey; there is a lack of joined-up thinking between modes of transport; disabled people have to contend with negative attitudes of staff and fellow passengers. She urged that if you had not yet given evidence, please do so (More information here: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/transport-committee/news/disabled-people---tor/). The Transport Committee will be holding oral evidence sessions, followed by a report with recommendations to government and transport sector.

Jack Dromey MP spoke about how disabled passengers could no longer use some stations because London Midland trains were taking staff away from stations. After campaigning, with 18,000 objections, the Secretary of State is now looking into the matter.

Questions asked to Minister

Q Access for visually impaired people: how do they know which bus is stopping at the bus stop?

A There is a need for better bus driver awareness and audio information

Q       What support exists for pedestrians?

A       Walking and cycling form an important part of transport strategy; including how the public realm is used. The Department has a £600m fund (Local Sustainable Transport Fund) to encourage the delivery of sustainable measures like walking and cycling; in addition, the Department is developing a door-to-door strategy.

Q       Are concessionary bus passes protected?

A       No plans to change statutory rules before 2015 which is that concessionary bus pass holders have free travel between 9.30am and 11pm (Monday – Friday, all times at weekends).

Questions asked to Panel –

Q       How do you find out what your rights are and how to challenge discrimination/how to make a complaint?

A       - it is important for transport operators to monitor complaints and take steps (‘consequence management’)

          - check the local authority website to find out how to make a complaint

          - every bus should have a complaints box

Q       Why is access to audio-visual information still so poorly despite technological advances? Missed opportunity on Metropolitan Line after recent upgrades

A       Technology used is out-dated; managers and drivers should pro-actively identify passengers who may be distressed in case of delays and interruptions. It is up to non-disabled people and service providers to understand barriers and use technologies – with involvement of disabled people.

Q       Since Olympic and Paralympic Games attitudes and assistance on London transport improved exponentially – there is a need for assertiveness training for transport staff to deal with negative attitudes by non-disabled passengers.

A       Agreed.

Q       However many underground stations are still not accessible.

A       - Oldest underground system in the world but it is about how the Government allocates funding.

          - Attitudes improved: now need commitment to sustain

Q       New routemasters in London not accessible in London.

A       Growing use and size of mobility scooters not anticipated; Ricability is carrying out research for the Department for Transport on use of scooters on public transport. See also http://www.ricability.org.uk/consumer_reports/mobility_reports/

Q       Why is best practice not replicated elsewhere?

A       Deregulation hasn’t worked – it has led to fragmentation in system which is not arranged around people who use it, but by people who run the system. Different bodies are responsible for different areas and the transport sector operates in complex ways. Organisations need to come together in partnership to deliver what is required. Accessibility regulations do not provide enough of a lever – DPTAC has been monitoring rate of purchase and upgrades of buses and had concerns that the bus sector is not going to meet the 2017 deadline of accessible fleet.[2]

Q       People with invisible disabilities face huge barriers which are not being addressed as there is not enough staff awareness and the Department for Transport has shown a lack of understanding in the Blue Badge consultation

A       The transport strategy must focus on attitudes; there is a real need for a pan-disability advisory structure to continue (DPTAC or otherwise) otherwise it is about which organisations shout the loudest/have the resources – usually not those with hidden impairments

Comment   Impact of wider government policies – narrative of getting more disabled people to work but at same time how they get to work is being missed out altogether (example of PIP/mobility)

Action point:        Follow-up meeting with Minister

About the Speakers:

Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport

Norman Baker was educated at The Royal Liberty School in Gidea Park and studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London. After leaving university, he held a number of jobs including Regional Director for Our Price Records and a teacher of English as a foreign language. He was elected as a local councillor in 1987 and in 1991 became the Liberal Democrat Leader of Lewes District Council. He was elected in as MP in 1997.

Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Maria Eagle was born on 17th February 1961 in Bridlington, East Yorkshire. She was educated at St Peter's Church of England School and Formby High School before attending Pembroke College, Oxford. She was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1983. Maria studied at the College of Law, London, and took her law finals in 1990. Maria then worked as a Solicitor in Liverpool until she was elected to Parliament in 1997. She has held many posts in government, including her appointment as Minister for Disabled People at the Department for Work and Pensions in 2001. 

Barbara Bedford, Customer Services and Communications Director, First Group UK Bus

Barbara Bedford has worked in the Bus Industry for the last 33 years in a variety of roles with an emphasis on customer service, staff development, marketing and market development. Ahead of the Olympics and Paralympics she worked with vehicle manufacturers on a more flexible seating layout for the 200 Double Deck buses that were used for Spectator Transport in London. Focus group research with a range of bus users including customers with disabilities helped to develop a more flexible area at the front of these vehicles.  This new layout will be included in all future vehicle orders for First Bus.

Liz Chandler, Corporate Development Director for Merseytravel

Liz Chandler is a passionate believer in unlocking the talents of individuals. In her role within Merseytravel, Liz created the now award winning Merseylearn, a unique management and Trade Union partnership approach to skills development, taking forward skills not only for Merseytravel but in the wider transport community of Merseyside. The importance of effective and inclusive transport links and services, so that people can access employment, skills and life opportunities, is a key part of the transport strategy for Merseyside and something that she passionately believes in.

Will Bee, Director of Will Bee Consultancy

Will Bee is a Disability Rights UK Associate. He established his own business after leaving the Disability Rights Commission in September 2007. He provides clients specialist advice on disability issues. He has recently worked on issues related to the personalisation of social care and the development of User Led Organisations. After leaving the Disability Rights Commission, where he was Wales Director and responsible for leading the Commission’s work on transport issues, Will was appointed a member of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee in 2008 and is currently leading their work on a new EU regulation on the rights of maritime passengers.

[2] Post-meeting note from First Group: First, other major operators, smaller groups and municipal bus companies will meet the deadline.  It will be illegal to use non accessible vehicles on local services beyond the deadline.