Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Alan Johnson (DAT 90)

There are important issues to be considered by the Parliamentary transport Select Committee; particularly in respect of the use of public transport by people with disabilities.

As a visually impaired user, the value of a regular public transport system is vital. It allows for greater independence ie less dependence on friends and relatives.

My personal experience relates to train travel more than buses. There has been a revolution in attitude towards the assistance offered when using either local or main line services.

A significant area of help is the regular announcement of available services on trains and also clear messages about approaching stations.

Unfortunately, the same is not true of bus travel. Journeys are interrupted many more times by traffic lights, traffic volume ETC. As a result, it is harder to gauge where one’s stop is. Automated announcements would be very helpful to visually impaired travellers.

Whereas my experience of travelling by train has suggested that the companies have invested resources in staff training, the same cannot be said of bus drivers. Consequently, they still forget to let passengers know when the bus has arrived at their stop.

Because of tight schedules, a bus driver may not have time to wait for vulnerable passengers to find a seat before the bus moves. There is an element of risk attached to this manoeuvre. Passengers not suffering from any kind of disability are equally at risk.

My impression is that the rail companies have been much more proactive in recognising the needs of disabled passengers as opposed to those organising bus travel. My experience relates to city travel. What is like for those in smaller urban and rural communities is for others to describe. Poorer services will almost certainly lead to increased isolation and greater difficulty in gaining employment.

These observations would be incomplete without reference to the Disability Living Allowance to which some visually impaired people will be able to claim to facilitate mobility. In some circumstances, accessibility by taxi provides augmented access particularly when public transport is either irregular or non-existent. However, it is a poor substitute for independent travel enabling increased well-being, raising confidence levels in one abilities and so encouraging greater awareness of one’s local area. The more visible disabled people are, the more easily will they be integrated into their communities.

May 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013