Coach pick up spots failing disabled passengers

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Minister for disabled people and National Express critical as it is revealed 37% of the company’s pick up stops cannot support the wheelchair lifts on the operator’s coaches

The Minister responsible for disabled people is leading calls for councils to make bus stations and stops more accessible to disabled travellers, after it emerged that 37% of stops used by National Express cannot accommodate wheelchair users, despite its fleet being able to carry them.

National Express stops at almost 1,200 bus stops across the country, but says that 436 of these have so many restrictions that they prevent drivers from using their lifts to carry wheelchair users aboard. Some are left unable to board the coach as a result.

The majority of these stations and bus stops are owned by local authorities and have a legal responsibility to comply with the Equality Act by making reasonable adjustments for disabled travellers.

Minister of State for Disabled People, Mark Harper, said: “It is simply unacceptable that in the 21st century more is not being done to make coach stations and stops more accessible to disabled travellers. There is little point in making sure coaches themselves are accessible, if those who operate the places where people are collected from are not doing what they can to help.

“This isn’t just about doing what’s right, it’s also about recognising the business case – as disabled people and their households have an annual spending power of £200bn.”

All of National Express’ 550 vehicles are wheelchair accessible – meaning they can carry wheelchair users at the front of their coaches.

National Express’ lift requires a clear space for a three metre extension from the side of the coach to allow a wheelchair to be lifted aboard. In many stations or bus stops, furniture and objects which overhang mean wheelchair users who are hoping to travel are left unable to board the national coach service.

The government welcomed statistics which show 84% of buses and coaches in England meet new regulations that make them accessible to disabled people – ahead of a deadline by 2020.

Managing Director of National Express, Tom Stables, said: “We carry millions of passengers every year and are absolutely committed to getting people where they want to go whatever their circumstances. We passionately believe everyone has the right to travel that’s why we were the first coach company to introduce a wheelchair lift.

“While we’re really proud of our accessibility record, we still believe there’s a long way to go in the field of accessible travel.
“We’ve worked with partners and lobbied to make third-party stations and bus stops more accessible for years and while the situation has improved, over a third of stops are still not accessible to wheelchair users. We hope that with the backing of the government that more station and bus stop owners will listen and take action in this crucial area.”