Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Access Committee for Leeds (ACL) (DAT 86)

A major element of ACL’s work is focused on improving the provision of transport across all areas of public service from buses, trains, taxis, private hire and community based Permit 19 vehicles.

Any commercial, charitable and Community Interest Companies (CIC’s) that are involved in public transport provision cannot alone develop inclusive, accessible and integrated services without the direct and meaningful engagement of older and disabled people as joint strategic partners.

The diverse experience, practical common sense and life based understanding of older and disabled people as “Community Transport Champions” is critical to designing the services, vehicles and infrastructure that is the key to delivering the vision and values that lay at the heart of all equality and human rights legislation and as perfectly defined in the “Improving Life Chances of Disabled People” published back in 2005.

The following is a brief summary that provides examples of “good” and “not-so-good” experiences of disabled people accessing public transport, but notably, these do not include the vast number of disabled and older people who, at this time, are simply segregated from any access to public transport services.

Case 1

KL relies on her wheelchair to maintain her social independence. When trying to use her local accessible “bendy bus” she was prevented from gaining access to four separate buses because the wheelchair space had a pushchair in it. On the five occasion there was a wheelchair space, but the driver refused to put the ramp out and told her she should have a carer with her to do that, then closed the door and drove off. After this last incident, KL gave up on her shopping visit to town and returned home.

Since then KL has not attempted to use public transport, which has led to her further isolation within the community.

Case 2

PR is registered blind and uses a Guide Dog for his mobility. He uses the same bus route to go to work every day. Most drivers know him and let him know when it’s his stop. One particular journey, PR boarded the bus and the driver would not acknowledge or respond to his request to let him know when it was his stop. A passenger intervened and offered to tell PR. When it came to PR alighting from the bus, the driver had stopped with the bus stop in the middle of the exit door and did not inform him. The result is PR came off the bus straight into the bus stop and injured his head that required hospital treatment.

Case 3

JM has a learning disability and uses a walking stick as a result of limited mobility. When accessing a wheelchair accessible Taxi at a rank he found that he could not access the taxi because the floor was too high for him to lift his leg. He asked the driver to deploy the step and the driver said no, go to the taxi behind. JM did this and experience the same problem and was told again to try the taxi behind. The same thing happened again and by this time JM was very upset. A member of the public came to his assistance and helped him to access a saloon car.

Case 4

MP and JP are both registered blind and both use trains to visit their family. On the outward journey they had been guided to their platform and were waiting for their train. The train was delayed and an announcement was made that it was arriving at another platform.

No one came to help them find the other platform and they missed their train. On their homeward journey they had booked assistance to help them off the train to the taxi rank. This did not happen and they were left stranded on the train for ½ hour until a member of the public realised their difficulties and called for assistance.

These cases were reported to the ACL over the last 12 months and involved transport staff receiving development training and where appropriate financial compensation for the people involved.

The individual examples only represent the tip of the “ice berg” in relation to such incidents, as the majority of disable people, without advocacy, often feel unable to challenge or raise their concerns.

Individual cases also do not highlight the very real gaps in the level of strategic planning and decision making in relation to inclusive, barrier free, integrated design of rolling stock and infrastructure.

Examples including, Leeds and Bradford International Airport, with many disabled people reporting difficulties because of the lack of a taxi rank and on private hire provision, compounded by a lack of accessible vehicle. Car part drop off charging policies not taking account of the additional time needed for some disabled people to access or exit vehicles.

Leeds Railway Station, were a public funded project to develop a new entrance has been designed without a drop off or pick up point, which will exclude many disabled people from any benefit of this public money being spent.

A plethora of add hock polices across the airline industry, with some airlines appearing to demonstrate open discrimination against any disabled traveller who dares to try and fly with them.

Lack of changing places within key public transport infrastructure;

Lack of any cogent planning in partnership with local expert older and disabled peoples groups.

The list could go on. What is urgently required is leadership at every level, within Government departments, through to Local Authorities, with clear national guidance framework and policy to define the core floor standards that cannot be ignored or re-defined as a way to enshrine inclusion and cohesion across all transport planning and development.

Whist acknowledging the different regulatory standards will remain across the industries, it is essential that where it is practicable and reasonable, all elements of transport work on a shared and authorative core standard in relation to meeting the needs of ALL members of the public, not just the majority and that every pound of public money spent takes full account of access, inclusion and diversity of needs within our society and local communities.

Whilst staff development and appropriate training will always be part of the resolution, it is also correct to recognise that every day across the UK the majority of disabled and older people receive truly outstanding and exemplar service from the staff they encounter when using public transport, albeit the strategic planning, rolling stock and environments often what underpin poor experience of service.

We have attached examples of the type of developments and representation that ACL have been involved with over recent years, including the current issue involving the new Leeds Railway Station Southern Entrance.

Quote, Access to Transport Inquiry—Have your say feedback:

With regards to choice, opportunities, service, participation and equality of access, the discriminating reality for many disabled people is nothing less than Public Transport Apartheid. For too long the segregation of disabled people has been accepted as the “default” position when it comes to our trains, buses, aircraft, airports, stations and infrastructure. There are vast hidden costs to the public purse in allowing such Public Transport Apartheid to continue, in addition to the very significant personal and family costs associated with enforced exclusion and isolation. Thanks to the inquiry that is being conducted by Louise Ellman MP, just maybe, we have the opportunity to take some tentative steps towards meaningful and full transport equality, to quote Nelson Mandela, “There is no such thing as part freedom”.

May 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013