The day after the Autumn Statement can be an opportunity to bury bad news. The Government’s response to the Transport Select Committee’s report on access to transport for disabled people, which was published on Friday, is just that – bad news for the 11.5 million people in the UK who live with a disability.
Over a fifth of disabled people report that they currently have difficulties in accessing public transport. I had to ask a parliamentary question to find out that only 452 train stations – fewer than one in five – has step-free access. Making transport more accessible has to be a priority. The Transport Select Committee’s report included a number of sensible ideas which sadly were completely dismissed by the Government.
The Government won’t confirm when it will complete its planned review of the Inclusive Mobility Guidance, citing “corporate planning and resource constraints”. It won’t upgrade the Transport Direct website, which many disabled people use to find out about accessible services, to make it fully disability accessible. It won’t introduce penalties for bus operators if they fail to run low-floor buses on routes advertised as such. It won’t seek the views of national charities and disability groups in prioritising stations for improvements, saying that “this would add little value to the process”. This Government has an astonishing disregard for the views or experiences of people with disabilities.
Transport isn’t just about big infrastructure projects. Fundamentally, it’s about getting people from A to Z – the commuters who rely on public transport to get to work, the students using buses and trains to get to school and college, the older people who need to get to the shops. Labour is putting accessibility and social inclusion at the heart of our transport agenda for Government. The Tories are ignoring the transport needs of people with disabilities. Britain’s passengers deserve better than this.
Mary Creagh is the Shadow Transport Secretary