'Real world experience’ of disabled people doesn’t match public transport policies
The real world experience of using public transport for young people with disabilities doesn't match up to the policies and services operators claim are in place, says a National Assembly committee.
The Petitions Committee has considered a petition submitted by young people backed by disabled charity Whizz-Kidz which called for better access to public transport in Wales.
The Committee accepted that many bus and train operators and taxi companies have accessibility policies and training in place, but supported the petitioners' view that the daily experiences of people with disabilities using public transport are inconsistent and frequently fall short of the standards expected.
Members were told of examples where train operators required 48 hours' notice to provide a ramp at a station, and that the ramp was not always there due to staff shortages.
One petitioner told the Committee:
"We were in Cardiff not long ago and the lifts had broken. I couldn't get off the station. I had to get off at Queen Street [station], get a taxi from Queen Street back to Central [station] so I could then get my connecting train onwards."
Buses and taxis also caused accessibility problems with vehicles and lack of appropriate staff training.
"The Committee was struck by the evidence from the petitioners and disappointed that, all too often, their real world experience did not match up with the policies and training outlined to us by the transport operators," said David Rowlands AM, Chair of the Petitions Committee.
"It is critical disabled people are able to access public transport for work, education, healthcare or just being with their friends.
"We welcome the positive examples and policies we were told about by transport operators and the Welsh Government.
"Nevertheless, it is clear to us that there is more to do to if we are to make sure that buses, trains and taxis are accessible to all."
“I’m thirteen now, I would like to be like everyone else, go around without telling someone twenty times…so I can get what I need straight away, [get] to go where I’m going and come back with no problems.”
Ruth Owen, chief executive of Whizz-Kidz, commented:
"As part of our Get on Board campaign, Whizz-Kidz has been working tirelessly to ensure that concerns such as a lack of accessibility to public transport are addressed by policy makers.
"The unsatisfactory experiences of our young people when using public transport in Wales highlight the significant need for standards to be far higher.
"This report is very encouraging and a positive step toward making change happen.
"Whizz-Kidz would now like to see the Welsh government acting upon these recommendations and incorporating them into public policy to ensure that transport services across Wales are accessible for everyone."
The Committee has made 12 recommendations for how services should be improved. These include:
For the next Wales and Borders rail franchise, set to be awarded by the Welsh Government, to include requirements for significantly improved accessibility of rail services and to support disabled passengers to 'turn up and go' wherever possible;
For the Welsh Government to introduce a standard disability awareness training programme for all bus drivers working in Wales; and
For the Welsh Government to develop common national standards for taxi and private hire vehicles and drivers when they acquire the powers to do so next year.
The petition collected 97 signatures on paper and online.
The Committee took evidence from young people with disabilities, bus and train operators, taxi representatives, passenger transport groups and the Welsh Government as part of its inquiry.
Read the full report:
Ensure disabled people can access public transport as and when they need it. (PDF, 769 KB)