Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (DAT 78)

Transport Legislation

1.1 The position of disabled people’s access to transport has slightly improved. Whether this can be attributed to the Paralympics, in places outside London is debatable. It is possible to point to anecdotal evidence that suggests that the attitudes have improved in some forms of transport but it is also possible to point to examples where it has fallen short.

1.2 The key thing is to ensure that the transport structure continues to develop in such a way as to maximise access for disabled people. The introduction of concessionary bus passes for disabled people have empowered people to begin to access the public transport network and was a significant step forward. However, the operation of the legislation on its own will not bring about all the necessary changes. Equality training of staff is still fundamental to ensuring effectiveness. There is no benefit to individual disabled people in having access to concessionary travel schemes if they are afraid to use them because of the way they fear they may be treated by staff on buses or other forms of transport.

1.3 Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living has received reports of individuals with conditions such as Down’s Syndrome being verbally abused by a bus driver. Another account told of a bus driver arbitrarily changing the route leaving passengers with mobility impairments with no alternative but to get off the bus some distance before their intended destination. When challenged in that instance, the bus company concerned offered the meagre compensation of a free one way journey. This was derisory compensation, given the circumstances as the individual involved had a bus pass in any case.

1.4 A further example can be seen from when a guide dog owner was denied travel on a bus because all the designated seats for disabled people were taken by non-disabled people and he was informed that by standing on the bus his guide dog was a trip hazard. This is anomalous, given that the local company will often allow two or more pet dogs to travel. These are untrained and often unruly animals, in direct contrast to an assistance dog that would go to sit under the seat and does not pose any threat to the general public.

2.1 Our organisation has heard numerous accounts of buses failing to stop for disabled people at bus stops. This is, of course another manifestation of the symptoms of the wider issue of the second-class citizenship which is imposed on disabled people a further example is the way in which child buggies are often taking up the space allocated for wheelchair users and drivers are consistent in refusing to require them to be collapsed and stored as luggage, to enable use by a wheelchair user, this is a persistent problem that recurs, irrespective of the provisions of the Equality Act (2010).

2.2 This illustrates the fact that legislation alone, will not improve the situation. Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living is aware that one company operating in our area uses it own drivers to provide Disability Equality training. This ought to be provided by a disability organisation. The bus company involved in all these instances mentioned above was Arriva

2.3 Misrepresentation by local authorities as to when the bus passes can be utilised also create issues for disabled people. All of this is incidental to the issue of the legislation and its effectiveness but shows that the legislation has to be supported with the change in attitude to bring about improvements.

2.4 The legislation does need to be in place. If we were to move to a situation where the concessionary schemes were handed over to local authorities to run there would be a lack of uniformity. Under the present scheme, concessionary pass holders as well as transport staff are aware that the pass can be used after 9.30am. This is on the whole a positive position. There are of course some regional additional schemes, which disabled people can benefit from; these too are to be welcomed. The key point is that the legislation ensures that the scheme has the protection of primary legislation, the Concessionary Bus Travel Act (2007) (as amended) anything less would weaken the effectiveness of the access available.

2.5 While it is the case that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities does not grant any new rights by itself, what it does create an opportunity to underpin domestic legislation and allow a standard to be attainable for disabled people and accessible transport systems is covered in those obligations and this is and remains an area long overdue for improvement.

2.6 An issue which is important to mention is that the train accessibility is being set back significantly as the deadline for accessible rolling stock has now been removed, whereas previously it stood at 2017. It would be a welcome development to see the introduction of a cut-off point with regard to the accessibility of the trains as this will allow greater opportunity for disabled people to access the transport system.

2.7 The exemptions under EU Regulation 181/2011 will create a significant setback as this would allow for the derogation of Disability Equality Training. The kind of incidents that have been described above will increase and perhaps be a precursor to worse events for disabled people on public transport.

2.8 In the 21st Century, an accessible public transport system should be a basic human right. If this country is to portray itself around the world, as a civilised country, one of the yardsticks that would be used to measure this must surely be the accessibility of a national transport system.

February 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013