Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from David Seligman (DAT 11)

I have been paraplegic for almost five years and travel alone in an electric wheelchair of similar dimensions to a manual chair.

All London’s buses have wheelchair ramps. The reliability of the ramps has improved greatly in the last 2 years, but bus travel is very slow for journeys of more than a few miles.

The Underground system is woefully inaccessible except for the Jubilee Line between Westminster and Stratford and a few other stations on other lines. Even stations as busy as Baker Street and Finchley Road only have fixed stairs from the street to the Metropolitan Line. Lifts would be used by elderly people and mothers with babies as well as the disabled. The lack of access to the Underground must surely harm the tourist industry. London black cabs, although mostly equipped with wheelchair ramps are expensive and many of their drivers seem to be reluctant to pick up wheelchair users, or undertake longer journeys from central London to the suburbs.

The National Rail System is far more user friendly in that staff with ramps are available at many stations and newer trains have prescribed wheelchair spaces. Despite the fact that assistance is booked at least 24 hours in advance and confirmed by email, on approximately one journey in 4 I find problems. Most commonly no member of staff is on the platform to meet me with a ramp at my arrival station. As train guards are being phased out by many rail companies, this can be a significant and sometimes frightening problem. However I must say when the system works, I find the majority of rail staff to be friendly and helpful.

When travelling by bus outside London, there are websites like www.traveline.org.uk that carry national bus timetable information. They also state that a wheelchair symbol will be shown on the timetable where ramped buses are used. Almost two thirds of the U.K’s buses are now fully accessible, but few of these are shown on Traveline’s site. I have emailed them twice with long lists of bus routes that should be shown with the wheelchair symbol. Their information is still inaccurate and out of date.

January 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013