Parliamentary under Secretary
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
Dear Lord Ahmad
Re Bus Services Bill, amendment 67: Clause 9, in the name of Baroness Campbell
Disability Horizons and Disability United are online magazines written largely for and by disabled people, focusing on the triumphs and trials of daily life.
We were extremely pleased to hear about Baroness Campbell’s proposed amendment to the Bus Services Bill. Transportation, particularly public transport, is a hugely popular topic on our sites with many people sharing similar and all-too-familiar experiences.
We would be very keen to see progress in this area. According to the Family Resources Survey 2014/15, there are 12.9 million people in the UK with a disability – 1 in 5 of the population. We do not claim to represent every one of those individuals, but ask instead that you base any decision on which measure would be most effective for increasing the freedom to travel of those individuals.
We believe that the proposed amendment to the Bus Services Bill has the potential to make dramatic improvements which will be of day to day benefit to disabled people and wider society.
At present, and despite the Equality Act 2010, there is very little consistency or transparency as to what can be expected of a bus company. This makes it difficult for individual disabled people to take appropriate action when things go wrong, and difficult for bus companies to know precisely what is required to make sure things go right. These are not the conditions for meaningful progress.
A requirement for Disabled Persons’ Protection Policies is a measure which has been tried and tested in the rail industry, and it is notable that statistics from the Office of Road and Rail show that the number of disabled people assisted to travel by rail continues to significantly increase. This demonstrates that putting accessibility at the heart of legislation, rather than in guidance which may be shelved and forgotten with little consequence, can trigger improvements. A similar requirement for bus companies would have significant potential to yield practical improvements.
The impacts on bus companies would need to be evidenced, and may be surprising. One of our regular writers recently highlighted that “extra costs can be recuperated through increased passenger numbers. Audio visual announcements were added to the Metro bus fleet in Belfast in March 2016 [Passenger Transport, Online], one of a number of new features celebrated for reversing passenger decline, leading to an overall percentage growth in passenger numbers.” [Sam Heaton, Disability United, Nov 2016]. An increased customer base is surely good news for any business; increasing accessibility to make it easier for disabled people and their family and friends to travel may have costs in the short term, but could represent a sensible investment longer term.
We hope that Baroness Campbell’s amendment will be incorporated into the Bus Services Bill, and would like to end by thanking you for your consideration of this important issue.
Disability Horizons & Disability United