MACS - Call for Evidence on Accessible Transport 2023 - Response

The Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) is pleased to contribute to the call for evidence. MACS is a statutory advisor to Scottish Ministers on all aspects of travel and mobility for disabled people (please see Appendix for more details).

The law as it relates to transport and transport accessibility in particular is a mixture of reserved and devolved responsibilities. Overall, we are not content that the legal framework delivers the range and quality of accessible services, which are needed if disabled people are to experience the same travel choices as nondisabled people. We highlight below some areas which MACS has previously expressed concern about.

More information is available on the Transport Scotland website.


The Passenger Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) are not adequate. Of particular concern is the poor outcomes that these Regulations deliver with regard to high floor coaches, and to smaller vehicles (with fewer than 22 seats). Both are common in Scotland, especially in rural parts.

The period for permitting exemption to PSVAR requirements for certain types of travel (home-to-school, rail replacement) has been repeatedly extended (currently to 2026), undermining any sense of a commitment to enforce accessibility regulations for such services.

The Regulations are themselves nearly a quarter of a century old and should be refreshed entirely to meet modern day aspirations regarding accessibility.  For example, we would suggest that more than one wheelchair/buggy space is required on certain types of service?


There are two main issues as far as rail accessibility is concerned: accessible stations and level boarding. At the present rates of improvement, all stations in the UK will not have step-free access until 2100. There is also only currently one train operating company that runs a fleet of rolling stock with level boarding potential - Anglia. The Government should make commitments (as it has done in a similar manner for electric vehicles) that all stations will be step-free by 2050 and that all rolling stock will have level boarding by this date also. This could be achieved through a number of ways, for example included in the proposed legislation establishing Great British Railways or through alternative routes.

Community Transport

The licensing framework governing community transport is nearly forty years old and requires review. Of particular concern is the exclusion of many schemes (operating under S19 permits) from concessionary travel arrangements. This results in high fares in many cases; for example,  Edinburgh’s dial-a-ride service charge is a minimum £4.00 fare.


Disabled people are disproportionately reliant on taxis and private hire cars. While the 1985 Transport Act envisaged the widespread availability of wheelchair accessible taxis, unfortunately, many parts of the country have few if any such taxis, especially for general hire and reward (often any wheelchair accessible vehicle is contracted for health, education or social care). The definitions of what constitutes a ‘wheelchair accessible’ vehicle also requires updating. New app-based on demand services such as Uber should be brought more clearly within accessible travel law.

Ferry and Air

These modes are important within Scotland for domestic (island) travel as well as for overseas travel. The Committee will be aware of many high profile accessibility failures where wheelchair users have faced unacceptable delays and other poor experiences.

Pedestrian Environments

The importance of pedestrian spaces is often overlooked, but it is essential that walking and wheeling is a viable option, both for local neighbourhood travel, and as part of a journey chain (e.g. at the beginning and end of a bus or train ride).  Unfortunately, pedestrian spaces are probably getting worse year by year, especially with increasing demands to dig up pavements, for example to install broadband, EV chargers, etcetera which often causes both temporary problems and permanent damage.  Occupation of pavements by commercial activities (‘tables and chairs’, A Boards etcetera) does not appear to be well managed within current legal frameworks.


While the Blue Badge scheme is well entrenched and understood, it is often not well policed through effective enforcement to deter use of accessible parking spaces by ineligible vehicles.  Blue Badges are also increasingly used as a ‘gateway’ to other mobility privileges (notably exemption from Low Emission Zone charges), which may add to the need to ensure the scheme operates effectively.


MACS believes that the Motability scheme, which benefits from significant UK tax exemptions including VAT, needs to be reformed. While it has been hugely successful, with over 600,000 customers in the UK, it routinely makes unreasonable and excessive profits (over £1 billion in 2022). We do not believe the scheme should be making such profits and any profits should be returned to the customers who generated them.

Transport to Health

In recent years, MACS has been trying to secure improvements in how disabled people access health and social care services (as inpatient, outpatient, primary care, etcetera).  The difficulty, which many disabled people face in getting affordable and accessible transport to meet healthcare needs is not acceptable.  We would welcome exploration of legal remedies to ensure that fair and appropriate travel to healthcare is guaranteed and becomes part of the care pathway planning.


The above comments mostly relate to distinct modes of travel. There are various legal requirements which apply to all such modes, but this focus on modal ‘silos’ is part of the problem with the current legal framework for accessible travel in the UK.  Very often disabled people encounter problems changing from one mode to another, or if a delay, or communication failure affects the whole journey chain.

Problems often also arise not with the physical act of travel itself but with communication, information provision, the support (or lack of it) from staff or the poor integration of different systems and organisations.  These issues are at the heart of the problems with regard to ‘Transport to Health and Social care’ above.

Given the persisting difficulty that disabled people face in getting around, the effectiveness of the legal framework for accessible travel must be in question.  One aspect of this is how effective are the relevant regulators at enforcing accessibility in transport?  These include the Office of Rail and Road, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, Local Authorities in relation to parking and Blue Badge enforcement and the Civil Aviation Authority. 

In view of the evidence which we and no doubt many others will bring to the Committee, we would welcome the Committee’s views over whether there is scope to adopt a more holistic ‘right to accessible travel’ which builds on and brings together these separate laws to improve the everyday experience of disabled travellers.

David Hunter
Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS)
March 2023

Appendix: About the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland

The Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) is a statutory advisory non-departmental public body. Within the founding legislation, Scottish Ministers have defined the overall aim for MACS as follows: 

“MACS will consider such matters relating to the needs of disabled persons in connection with transport as the Committee think appropriate and give advice to Scottish Ministers”.

MACS Strategic Remit is: 

To give Scottish Ministers advice on aspects of policy, legislation and practice affecting the travel needs of disabled people.

  • To take account of the broad views and lived experiences of disabled people when giving advice.
  • To encourage awareness amongst disabled people in Scotland of developments, which affects their mobility, choices and opportunities. 
  • To work closely with SG and ensure our work programme complements
  • The work being undertaken by the Inclusive Mobility and Transport Committee (IMTAC), the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and other organisations, voluntary and statutory.
  • To promote the travel needs of disabled people with designers including transport planners and operators so that these are fully taken into account in the development of vehicles and infrastructure and delivery of services.
  • To monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of our work against the above aims and objectives in improving travel opportunities for disabled people in Scotland.