Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Greater London Association of Disabled People's (GLAD's) (IT 101)



  GLAD welcomes the chance to respond to your Committee's call for evidence on the issues raised by the Integrated Transport White Paper. GLAD is an organisation representing a membership of over 70 disability organisations in the Greater London area. We realise that the Committee will get a large number of responses covering the general issues. However, this submission will concentrate on how the White Paper's many welcome promises to make transport more accessible can be turned into reality for disabled Londoners.


  There seems to be very little by the way of new money around. However, making transport more accessible will also help elderly people and these with children, shopping and luggage. The health and social services sectors also have to spend a lot of extra money on care packages because of the lack of accessible transport.


  Paragraphs 3.92 and 3.93 of the White Paper refer to the regulations covering buses, taxis and rail vehicles which are going to be made under the Disability Discrimination Act. GLAD believes that the proposed regulations don't fully take on board the needs of people with sensory impairments, learning difficulties and larger wheelchairs.

  We are also concerned that the Disability Discrimination Act currently doesn't allow for an end date by which all rail vehicles must be accessible. It is estimated that rail vehicles will be accessible by 2032 but this is a very long time to wait and we are concerned that some existing vehicles may last for a longer time than that. We believe that the bill which is due to go before Parliament in the next session to establish the Disability Rights Commission would be a good time to make the appropriate amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act.

  The bus and taxi regulations do allow for an end date by which all vehicles will have to be accessible but there is the danger that new vehicles will be purchased just before the new regulations come in which are not accessible. For example, we understand that Ariva buses have won a number of contracts for routes in London recently, which will not be run by low floor accessible buses. On some low floor routes double decker buses frequently run. It is difficult to encourage disabled people to use buses and if they wait 10-20 minutes for a bus only to find that they can't get on they will be discouraged from trying again in the future.

  We are also concerned that the section of the Disability Discrimination Act covering the need to make transport infrastructure accessible will not come into force until 2004 but new rail vehicles will have to be accessible from 1999. We are therefore likely to have a situation where it will be legal to run fully accessible trains at inaccessible stations. The Rail Regulator is currently revising his code of practice on the transport of disabled passengers and as part of this process there is a thorough process of consultation with disabled people and the rail industry. We also understand that the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions (DETR) Mobility Unit will be consulting the transport industry and disabled people about guidance concerning Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act between October, 1998 and March, 1999. We therefore believe that it is likely that all parties could have agreed standards before 2004 which could be implemented though regulations under Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act long before 2004.


  Many rail stations have no staff which makes travel very dangerous for a number of vulnerable groups including, women, elderly people and disabled people. A study by S Simanowitz for the European Disability Forum found that 54 per cent of respondents had experienced some form of harassment in the last year. Requiring operators to follow the guidance in the "Personal Security on Public Transport-Guidelines for Operators," (Paragraph 3.86) of the Integrated Transport White Paper and the Secure Stations Scheme will provide some steps in the right direction.

  Where there are staff their attitudes and actions towards disabled people can have a very important effect on disabled passengers. Both managers and front line staff should have disability equality training run by disabled people.


  GLAD believes that it is important that there is regular consultation with disabled people themselves at all levels. Disabled people's personal experience can allow them to discover problems before large amounts of money are wasted. For example a member of GLAD's Transport Forum was recently shown a new train which is in the process of being built. The toilets have been built to the sizes specified in the Draft Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations but it was only when he tried to get into the toilet that he discovered that it wasn't big enough!

  The White Paper commits the Government to set up an Integrated Transport Commission. Paragraph 4.5 of the White Paper talks about the composition but makes no mention of disabled people. One way of representing disabled people would be to have some disabled people from the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) sitting on the new Integrated Transport Commission.

  Paragraph 3.96 of the White Paper says that Local authorities will be required to address accessibility issues when drawing up local transport plans. Paragraph 3.69 says that local authorities will be expected to establish groups with transport operators, user groups and others, whose recommendations will inform local transport plans. There is a need for a requirement that disabled people are represented on these bodies.


  Perhaps the most discussed part of the White Paper is the issue of congestion charging and extra charges for non residential parking. We now understand that it is likely that a pilot scheme is likely to be run in London with the approximately £1 billion raised to be invested in the Underground. If the Government wants more disabled people to abandon their cars, it is very important that some of this money is invested in making the Underground more accessible for disabled people. However, it will take a very long time to make public transport accessible and some disabled people will never be able to use public transport. GLAD are therefore very pleased that the Government have accepted the principle that disabled people should be exempt from the new charges. The Government will be consulting about the practicalities of the exemption scheme later in the year but are worried that using the Orange Badge Scheme would lead to further mis-use of Orange Badges by non-disabled people. Therefore, any exemption should be implemented at the same time as increased penalties for mis-use of Orange Badges. If more than one pilot scheme is set up for these charges perhaps several methods for establishing criteria for exemptions can be tried.


  Even where disabled people use their own cars it is essential that the pavements are accessible so that they can get the last few yards to their destination. GLAD are therefore very pleased that there are number of commitments which are likely to improve the environment for disabled pedestrians, including wider pavements, easier crossings (this includes less subways and footbridges and encouraging local authorities to build fully accessible pedestrian crossings including tactile paving and with a longer time to cross), control of vehicles obstructing pedestrians and consultation on penalties for utilities who take an excessive amount of time with road works.

  However, GLAD remains concerned by the effects that pedestrianisation can have on disabled people. The streets must be built to be fully accessible for those with physical and sensory impairments and there must be exemptions for Orange Badge holders and door to door transport to allow disabled people to get to their destinations.


  The DETR and the Transport Committee for London are currently reviewing the provision of Door to Door Transport in London. The possibility of all door to door provision being controlled by integrated demand centres is being explored. This will allow for the much more efficient use of resources. However, demand far outstrips supply for door to door provision at the present time and it is therefore important that any money which is saved is reinvested in door to door provision. London Underground are also piloting a scheme to encourage more use of public transport, called Home Link, where people get a minicab from the station to their home. The possibilities for the integration of Door to Door and mainstream services need to be explored though the Greater London Authority's (GLA's) and the local boroughs transport plans. The possibility of extending quality partnerships to door to door provision should also be explored.

25 September 1998

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