The Government is “squandering” an opportunity to make public transport more accessible to disabled people after MPs’ recommendations on improvements were “effectively ignored”, campaigners have said.
A recent Transport Select Committee report describing disabled access to transport in Britain as “unacceptably poor” suggested using audio-visual systems on buses and training drivers in disability awareness, as well as consulting charities to prioritise stations in need of better accessibility.
The Department for Transport concluded that the business case for a phased introduction of buses with AV systems “could not be demonstrated” and that it “loathed to impose financial burdens of this kind”. It also replied that seeking the views of disabled representatives for choosing stations for upgrades would add “very little value to the process” as “most groups would simply recommend their local station”.
Meanwhile the Inclusivity Mobility Guidance, an advisory guide to the transport industry, has been “halted for the time being, as a consequence of corporate planning and resource constraints”.
Campaigners said the responses amounted to a “total disregard for the views of people with disabilities”.Former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson told The Independent: “It is really disappointing that the response is so unhelpful. With the changes in welfare reform and the significant number of people who will lost the support for mobility then public transport is vital to get disabled people to work.”
The concerns chime with findings from the Leonard Cheshire charity, which earlier this year found 37 per cent of disabled Britons had difficulties using the country’s road and rail transport, 10 per cent more than when the same poll was carried out in 2009.
The most common issues were found to be a lack of awareness and staff training, with some travellers reporting inadequate support and negative attitudes. Staff members were sometimes absent or “too busy” when assistance was required, while a lack of information and accessibility on websites and poor signage at station was also reported.
Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh described the coalition’s response as “completely out of touch”.
“The Tories are ignoring the needs of people with disabilities and older people. It’s a disgrace that less than a fifth of rail stations have step-free access via lifts or ramps. We’ve got to talk about transport users, not just big structural things,” she said. A spokesman for the DfT said it “is committed to ensuring that disabled people have equal access to transport services and opportunities to travel”.