Government ‘must do more’ on bus access, say MPs


newslatestMPs have warned the government that it must do more to address the barriers faced by disabled bus-users.

The Commons transport select committee issued the warning as it published the government’s response to its inquiry into access to public transport for disabled people.

The committee’s inquiry report, published in September, concluded that access was “unacceptably poor”, with improvements planned by the government now being “watered down or abandoned”.

Among its recommendations, the committee called on the government to ensure the phased introduction of audio-visual information systems on all buses over the next 10 years.

But in its response to the report, the Department for Transport (DfT) rejects the recommendation, saying that it does “not at this point intend to legislate to make audio visual systems on buses mandatory”, because it is “loath to impose financial burdens of this kind on the industry”.

It also rejects the committee’s recommendation to implement a disability equality training package for all bus and coach drivers from 2014.

Louise Ellman, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said members were “disappointed” by the rejection of these two recommendations, and do not believe they would be “particularly burdensome on the industry, given the benefits to all passengers”.

She added: “This approach to achieving equal access in bus travel is insufficient by comparison with efforts being made across the rail industry to improve the experience of disabled travellers.

“Nevertheless, measures being taken by train operators are often far from perfect so we shall be watching closely for evidence of improvement.”

DfT also says in its response to the committee’s inquiry report that it has decided not to use powers available in Labour’s Equality Act to force all taxis to be accessible to disabled people, because it claims there are some disabled people for whom existing models of wheelchair-accessible taxis would not be suitable.

It says it prefers to leave such decisions up to local authorities, which can decide for themselves whether all the taxis they license should be wheelchair-accessible.

The committee also welcomed DfT’s decision to commission a survey of Passenger Assist, which provides assistance to disabled people using rail services, another of its recommendations.

And it welcomed the government’s assertion that changes to ticket office opening hours “should mean no reduction overall” in services to disabled passengers, and should even deliver an improvement in some cases.

5 December 2013