One of the country’s leading experts on access in the transport industry has been awarded an OBE, less than three months after the government decided to scrap the advice body she served on for nine years.
Ann Bates, a wheelchair-user herself, was deputy chair of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) and chaired the committee’s rail group.
But in October, the government decided to scrap DPTAC as a cost-cutting measure, as part of its notorious “bonfire of the quangos”.
Bates is deeply critical of the government’s decision, and said that a review of DPTAC’s work found it was doing a “fabulous” job. She said she believed that she and other DPTAC members provided “value for money”.
Her comments came as the Commons public administration committee heavily criticised the government’s “quango bonfire”, and said the process was “rushed and poorly handled”, the tests used to evaluate each public body – including DPTAC – were “hopelessly unclear”, and there was “no system of consultation with the bodies concerned or with the public”.
Bates said she was mystified as to why the government decided to scrap DPTAC.
She said: “Who knows why the government gets rid of things? It’s something that I just don’t understand.
“There is still a job to do and I have no idea who will do it. I am disappointed that all the work we put in is in danger of drizzling away.”
Bates – who works as a rail and air access consultant – said DPTAC had been instrumental in the “huge strides” made in improving access to rail and aviation and that scrapping the committee would “cause some problems”.
She said she was “very surprised” to be awarded the OBE – for services to disabled people – which was announced on the final day of her third and final term of office with DPTAC.
Once described by a rail journalist as the “Disability Taliban”, she believes she gradually won over senior members of the rail industry and demonstrated that making trains more accessible would also help their services run more smoothly.
She said: “Anything that makes your journey smoother helps the railways as well as us. By the end of our run, I think people saw that and I think I gained the respect of people in the rail industry.”
6 January 2011