Research Support for the 2015 Transport Accessibility Summit

Appendix 2 Evidence Review

What do we know about accessible transport in Scotland?

A short review of the evidence

1. About this report

This short evidence review is for people who attended the Transport Accessibility Summit in March 2015. It sets out what we know about transport accessibility in Scotland. It explores the main issues and barriers. It also includes examples of interesting practice that we could learn from.

2. What do we mean by transport accessibility?

Transport accessibility is about finding ways of connecting people's origins and their destinations in a way which meets the needs of everyone. Transport accessibility is important for everyone. But disabled people can face particular barriers to transport accessibility, because of the way transport is designed and delivered.

In Scotland, about a fifth of people have a long term health problem or disability[3]. This figure is likely to increase as there will be more older people in Scotland in the future and there is a strong relationship between age and disability. Making transport accessible is therefore a big issue for everyone in Scotland.

Transport Scotland's statistcal bulletin[4] provides details of access to, and usage of, transport for disabled people. For example,

  • Around one in ten adults who have a disability or long-term illness had used a bus every day for the past month, and another one in ten had used a bus once a week. However, over half had not used a bus at all within the previous month.
  • Just three per cent of adults who have a disability or long-term illness had used a train once a week for the past month. Most (85 per cent) had not used a train at all within the previous month.
  • While one in ten adults with a disability or long-term illness (and possess a full driving licence) drive every day, a further one in ten possess a driving licence but never drive.
  • Over half of adults who have a disability or long-term illness do not possess a full driving licence.

Data suggests that a non-disabled adult is 50 per cent more likely to make any kind of journey on a day, than a disabled adult[5].

3. What are the main issues?

Overall, from the evidence available, people's views on accessibility can be sorted into four main themes. The discussions at the Transport Accessibility Summit will focus on these four main themes. Transport Scotland identified these themes in discussion with Disabled People's Organisations in Scotland.

Deliverability – This theme is about things which support your ability to travel, including affordability, safety, comfort and availability.

Connectivity – This theme is about your end to end journey from home to destination (and back). It includes getting to the transport, getting from mode to mode, and getting to the destination.

Information and assistance – This theme is about getting information in accessible formats in advance of and during journeys, particularly when things go wrong. It is also about the right assistance and help on your journey.

Training and customer service – This theme is about attitudes, leadership and encouragement. It covers things like consistency in service and user involvement in service development.

Below, we set out some of the evidence around these themes in more detail. It is important to recognise that this report focuses on issues and things that need to change. These issues have been raised by disabled people through research, through engagement in the Scottish Government response to the United Nations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and through discussion with Transport Scotland before the Accessible Transport Summit.

However, a lot of work has been done to improve transport accessibility over recent years. There are also currently a number of groups and partnerships which focus on transport accessibility.

4. Deliverability

Many of the barriers and issues disabled people experience around transport are related to cost, availability, comfort and safety.

Research shows that cost is a common barrier for disabled people in using all modes of transport, including the car, bus, train and taxi. Cost is the main barrier to rail, car and taxi use. It is the second most common barrier to bus travel.

However, cost is also the main barrier for non-disabled people. Disabled people highlight a wider range of other barriers to travel, beyond cost[6].

Availability of different transport options is also a barrier for disabled people. For example, disabled people are more likely than others to use a local bus service. But around a third experience difficulty using buses. The most common barrier disabled people experience around bus transport is services not being available[7].

Research suggests that people with learning difficulties in rural areas experience particular problems with transport availability. They are less likely than others to access public transport by themselves, and are much less likely to be able to drive[8].

Safety is also a major issue. Research shows that many disabled people report concerns about personal safety and feelings of vulnerability when travelling. In particular, some people with learning difficulties feel that using public transport can be a "scary and confusing" experience[9]. Research found that a fifth of disabled people who had been victims of hate crime had experienced this on public transport[10].

5. Connectivity

This theme is about the end to end journey from home to destination. There is a lot of evidence about the modes of travel used by disabled people, and their experiences. For example:

  • Rates of driving are lower among disabled people compared to non-disabled people[11]. Almost a third of disabled people said that health was a barrier to driving[12]. Recent research suggests that disabled people in rural areas are more likely to drive than those in urban areas[13].
  • Research found that almost one in five disabled people said it was difficult to get to the bus stop. And almost one in five disabled people said that it was difficult to get on or off the bus[14].
  • Research has found that many disabled people feel that rail travel was inaccessible, due to issues with physical accessibility (as well as staff attitudes and training) [15].
  • Research in rural areas has found that disabled people feel that a lack of easily accessible public transport is a significant barrier to accessing employment, leisure facilities and general services[16].

The consequences of inaccessible transport include social isolation, lack of independence and loss of spontaneity[17]. This can impact on health and wellbeing as well as opportunities and life chances.

6. Information and assistance

There is strong evidence that disabled people can experience problems with the information and assistance they receive on their journeys.

Research into the Scotland wide free bus travel system for older and disabled people found that disabled people were slightly less satisfied with the scheme than older people. Disabled people were positive about access to free bus travel. But, there were problems with a lack of assistance and poor driver attitudes. For example, some had problems putting the card on the machine, and received little support from drivers.

Other research found that some disabled people had even fallen over on the bus before they sat down, despite asking drivers to wait[18].

And some disabled people experience barriers to train travel because of the requirement to alert the rail company 24 hours in advance, to request assistance[19].

Other research found that people with visual and hearing impairments expressed a need to receive information both verbally and visually. There is evidence that providing audio and visual information on board bus and coach services would enhance accessibility for blind and partially sighted people[20].

7. Training and customer service

Research across the UK found that two thirds of disabled people have felt discriminated against when travelling on public transport, either by staff or other passengers[21]. The main issue related to difficulties getting on and off transport.

Disabled people wanted:

  • training and awareness raising for staff
  • clear rights in terms of use of public transport
  • to be involved in the design and delivery of services
  • to have more flexibility in their journeys
  • more space for wheelchairs, guide dogs and other support.

Research undertaken in Scotland has also found challenges with public transport providers being unwilling or unable to respond to the needs of disabled people. Some wheelchair users felt that taxi companies were often not willing or able to respond to their needs. And people with learning difficulties expressed a need for improved staff training for public transport employees – for example understanding that people might take longer to ask or respond to questions.

8. What works well in the rest of the UK?

Building Confidence
Transport for London has launched a mentoring service for disabled people with the purpose of building confidence in using bus services[22].

'Bus Days' provide disabled people the opportunity to travel on a London bus in a safe, controlled way with a mentor who can help plan and accompany journeys. The service is free for anyone with a sensory or cognitive impairment, and a limit of ten mentored journeys can be accessed, during which most individuals build enough confidence to then travel independently.

Improving Connectivity and Accessibility
This is a disabled person's adult changing area at the New Pier Head Ferry Terminal in Liverpool. The aim was to increase the number of disabled people able to use public transport and specifically encourage people with complex toileting or changing needs to be able to travel. Disabled people were involved throughout the design and build process including site visits and meetings[23].

Providing Information
iBus technology is a location system used on all of London's 8,000 buses which provides passengers with audio and visual information. iBus uses several location instruments including GPS to relay information of stops and stations to an accuracy of within 10 metres. Each bus has a computer on-board which contains the details for all 19,000 stops in London. The technology was initially trialled in 2005 after the London bus service was criticised for failing deaf commuters and won an innovation award in 2008[24].

Easy Access Guarantee
Go North East buses are committed to making bus travel accessible and easy for everyone. The company also has a guarantee that if any problem occurs, a complimentary taxi will be arranged. This applies if anyone is unable to board a bus because of a ramp not working, no space in the wheelchair bay, or if a non accessible bus is allocated to the route (for example as a replacement service)[25].

9. What works well in Europe and elsewhere?

Accessible Ticket Systems
Barcelona redesigned its ticket systems to be height adjustable. The machines are also fitted with a navigation system for blind people which guides the purchasing process with Braille and audio. By including disabled people in the consultation and design process, ticket machines have been designed to work in a way which accomodates users' actions and needs[26].

Flexible Transport
Göteborg, Sweden has introduced an on demand bus service for older and disabled people called Flexlinjen. A Flexlinjen bus has a fixed starting location and destination, but only stops at points for passengers who are booked to be picked up. Passengers receive an automatic phonecall ten minutes before the bus arrives at their stop. Flexlinjen buses have space for mobility equipment and always have the same driver to create a sense of security. Passenger surveys return a satisfaction rate of 99 per cent with the drivers on this service[27].

Practical Training
The Luxembourg Railway Company has introduced a training scheme for staff to increase disability awareness. The training provides staff with experience of real life situations faced by individuals with mobility and learning difficulties. Training sessions occur several times a year. The sessions are coordinated by five disability associations. Since the training began, there have been fewer complaints, and greater satisfaction from disabled passengers[28].

Sharing Experiences
AXS Map ( is an app which maps out the obstacles and accessibility of public locations in cities in North America. Using a crowd-sourcing method, individuals can rate and comment on their experience of businesses and services, and share that information through the app to guide others. Users of AXS Map can assign a star-rating to aspects of buildings such as entryway and toilet access. This is highly useful information for people in advance of a journey[29].