Public Transport Failing Disabled People

Wed,6 March 2024
Blog Transport
Stephen Brookes MBE, Disability Rights UK's Transport policy adviser, makes a strong and unequivocal statement about the failure of public transport in the UK to meet the accessibility needs and requirements of Disabled people.

Disabled public transport passengers are consistently and disproportionally impacted by increasingly regular failings in the provision of services. We must change the piecemeal approach in the industry from the top to bottom.

I have found by both experience and example of others how bad and disengaged the situation really is. Particularly lately on multi operator journeys I expect something to go wrong. It’s just waiting to see how badly it goes wrong. Train companies need to take responsibility as a form of duty of care to say they will no longer accept “failed assists”, or service glitches as Disabled people have a right to travel.

Bus companies and operators need within commercial responsibility to align their policies more consistently to provide some confidence in services rather than keep saying this route is changed or is no longer operating.DR UK know that so many Disabled people put up with appalling service because they just don’t know that they are entitled to more and they don’t know where to go to complain.

But let’s be clear, most Disabled people don’t want hassle, they don’t want compensation, we want to get a decent bus or rail journey.

An important access issue is that the transport industry is still procuring vehicles off the shelf which are not disability assessed which means that there is frequently a costly set of changes to make them at best basically accessible.

Transport comms groups are good at saying ‘sorry' and we know that behind closed doors companies bleat about disability access costs, but they must remember that we need something to happen and this is partly down to the DfT and Government ministers to say that this grudging service provision must not continue and clearly understand that many households with a Disabled person do not have access to a car.

There needs to be a coordinated plan to make the country’s public transport system accessible to everyone. I say that if we get it right for all disabilities, we have got it right for everyone.

An example of badly thought through processes affecting not just Disabled people but also older and less fit passengers is the increased creation of the Digital Divide as smart technology and APPs are advertised and promoted to give the best deals and latest travel information. We regularly hear from our members that this leads to an increasing two-tier service and creates some growing exclusion and discrimination. We also fear impending staff cuts will exacerbate this situation.

However, the relationship does works at times through timely cooperation by vocal Disabled people and there are some good examples infrastructure groups who continually engage and consult disability user groups and do not just present them with a fait accompli so in conclusion we, the ORR, the DfT and all stakeholders should promote such success loudly to make the industry fit for purpose.