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Improvements in accessibility in public transport

Public transport becomes more important to people who give up driving or can no longer walk far. How are public transport providers meeting the challenge of supporting older passengers and those with disabilities?

The team at Britain’s largest bus operator, Stagecoach, describe changes for the better.

Using public transport when you are getting older or have a disability can be daunting. However, this shouldn’t be the case as using buses, trains and metro systems has become a lot more accessible.

Join us as we take a look at how public transport has improved over the years for the elderly and the disabled.

Giving assistance on buses

The majority of those living with disabilities should have seen significant improvement to their bus services since the Government’s regulations and guidance report under various disability discrimination legislation.

All bus service providers are now legally to follow a new set of rules:

  • Access must be allowed to users with guide dogs or assistance dogs that are wearing jackets with appropriate signage.
  • A driver, inspector or conductor can no longer direct a passenger to leave a vehicle on the grounds of being disabled.
  • Wheelchairs of a certain size, – up to 1350mm tall, 700mm wide and 1200mm long – must be allowed on the bus.
  • Drivers must be familiar with the lift and ramp system on their vehicle. Any tool required for its use must be carried on the vehicle.
  • Drivers must safely deploy the ramp for a wheelchair user either alighting or boarding.

By 2013, 64% of buses were wheelchair accessible. January 2016 saw a change for all public bus systems, with regulations now stating all single-decker buses should have a wheelchair bay, ramp and priority seating. It is now a criminal offence for buses not to have this. In January 2017, it will become an offence for double-decker buses to forgo these measures.

New help for the blind and partially-sighted at Stagecoach

At Stagecoach we have explored various strategies to make travelling on its buses more accessible.

One of the standout moves by the company’s UK Bus division was the launch of a new charter in July 2015, which it produced alongside the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Robert Montgomery, the Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus, explains: “We want our buses to be accessible to everyone, including people who are blind and partially sighted.

“It is easy for us all to take public transport for granted. But when someone loses their sight, things like stopping a bus, buying a ticket, finding a seat and getting off at the right stop immediately become a huge challenge. Our employees have an important role to play in providing assistance.”

The Stagecoach strategy aims to deliver an improved service to those who have experienced sight loss through the following principles:

  • Drivers must stop for any waiting passengers at any designated stop on their route.
  • Drivers must assist blind and partially-sighted customers, such as by informing them of the service and the destination information.
  • If required, drivers must assist blind and partially-sighted customers with making payment for a journey and to find a seat before the bus departs.
  • If there is no audio announcement system in operation on a service, drivers must advise blind and partially-sighted customers once they have reached their destination.
  • If required, drivers must assist blind and partially-sighted customers with exiting a vehicle once their destination has been reached.

In addition, Stagecoach’s UK Bus division’s driver training course now has an interactive sight loss awareness training section.

At the same time, awareness campaigns and materials have been added Stagecoach buses which clearly highlights the priority seating and areas which are designated for disabled people.

Accessibility at Transport for London

Transport for London (TfL) has been working hard to make public transport much more accessible around the UK’s capital.

Did you know, for example, that the TfL now has a dedicated service where people can get advice about planning to use a service provided by the organisation on an accessible route? Those taking advantage of this initiative can even request a mentor to join them on their first few journeys so that they can become confident using a route. Click here to learn more about the TfL’s mobility aid recognition scheme.

Every bus route in operation by the organisation is now served by low-floor vehicles which come complete with an access ramp and a dedicated space for wheelchairs. Step-free access is also available at a quarter of London Underground Tube stations, half of the Overground stations and the majority of piers, as well as every tram stop, DLR station and Emirates Air Line station controlled by the TfL.


On top of specific companies and organisations helping to make public transport more accessible, there are also transport concessions available across the board. The disabled and elderly can save money when travelling in various ways.


  • Older people can travel for free on local buses throughout England, though the age required for you to apply for a pass will depend on the year you were born and the area you live. Check out this advice from GOV.UK to find out if you’re eligible.
  • If you are 60 years old or over, you are eligible to buy a Senior Railcard. A one-off cost is required for this annual savings card and as a result, you will be able to cut the price of many rail fares across the UK. Apply for yours here.
  • Free travel on local buses throughout England is available with a disabled person’s bus pass. However, you will have to get in touch with your local authority in order to see if you’re eligible — head to the GOV.UK site for the essential contact information.


  • A Disabled Person’s Railcard is available, where you and a travelling companion can save money on the majority of rail fares in operation across the UK.

This article was published in July 2016.

If you’ve found this article helpful you may like to read more:

Do you have stories to tell about public transport companies making it easier for older people to use their services? Or more difficult? Please do share in the comments below.

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