Lots of people assume that disability and public transport don’t really mix but armed with a few handy tips, we think otherwise. With a bit of knowledge it’s possible to find cheaper and more convenient methods of getting around.
Disabled Persons Railcard
The Disabled Persons Railcard gives you a third off most rail fares. The discount is for two people, meaning that you can save money for a friend or a carer too. Whilst you have to purchase a railcard outright it could easily pay for itself after just one journey.
Assistance is available when travelling by train – including help getting on and off the train and help with luggage – all free of charge. However, whilst train operators do their best to help disabled passengers that need assistance, if you need help when travelling by rail, it is best to book assistance at least 24 hours in advance.
Unlike on the railways there is no national concessions scheme for coach travel. However, discounted travel is available from certain coach operators.
National Express sells a Disabled Coach Card that gives a third off their standard fares.
Goldline (Northern Ireland)
You can get half price travel if you use your SmartPass (see free bus travel section) on Goldline coaches.
Virgin Trains run a national network of rail services. They run a collective policy that they call JourneyCare to help passengers with special requirements.
Disabled people can use the JourneyCare call centre to obtain travel information and advice about the most convenient station to use, buy a ticket for the whole journey, and arrange assistance through the Assisted Persons Reservation System (APRS). This could include reserving appropriate seats and wheelchair spaces on trains and help with getting on and off trains (and conveyed to an appropriate point where the passenger can pick up with other assistance). (They recommend booking assistance a minimum of 24 hours before your journey.)
Ramps are available at all stations managed by Virgin Trains to assist mobility impaired passengers to board or alight from a train, and help with luggage will also be provided.
All Virgin onboard staff are briefed to look out for customers with specific needs and to offer appropriate assistance when necessary, whether this assistance has been booked or not.
JourneyCare: 08457 443366 (or 08457 443367 textphone)
To book JourneyCare Tel: 08000 158 123 text phone users, please call 08000 158 1
Eurostar links London and the UK with continental Europe and has stations in Paris, Brussels, Lille and Calais – assistance is available at all of them.
Tickets can be booked to include dedicated wheelchair and companion spaces. Any further assistance required needs to be requested by phone 48 hours before your departure.
Each station has a designated assistance welcome point and it’s best to arrive at least an hour before your train departs. Customers are able to tell the staff what kind of assistance they’ll need.
Whilst there are toilets in each carriage, larger, wheelchair accessible toilets are in coaches nine and 10, next to the two adapted wheelchair spaces.
Reduced wheelchair user fares are especially for customers who are unable to walk 200 metres unaided and need to travel in their own wheelchair. Although wheelchair spaces are located in Standard Premier and Business Premier, wheelchair user prices are fixed at the lowest priced Standard class fare. If you’re booking a Wheelchair User ticket and you’d like to take a companion with you, they’ll get the same reduced fare.
If you don’t normally use a wheelchair but won’t be able to walk far enough to get to or from the train unassisted a wheelchair can be provided to get you to the train, although you’ll need to be able to walk from the door to your seat and sit in a regular seat throughout your journey.
If you need to travel with a mobility scooter, it will be stowed safely in one of the train’s luggage holds at no extra cost. Scooters that use combustible fuel won’t be allowed on any Eurostar train – only battery operated ones.
To arrange for assistance Tel: 03432 186 186
Transport For London (TFL)
TFL have been a leading light in accessible travel and continue to develop the Capital’s transport infrastructure to cater for all. Earlier this year, with the support of London Mayor, Boris Johnson, they were able, for example, to confirm that more than half of TFL’s rail and Underground stations will be step-free by 2018.
TFL have ensured that accessible travel in London goes from strength-to-strength:
• 66 Tube stations are currently step-free and around 40 more Underground and Overground stations will become step-free over the next decade, including major stations such as Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Vauxhall and Victoria. In addition, when Crossrail fully opens in 2019, all 40 stations will be step-free.
• The number of journeys made by step-free routes each year is expected to almost treble, from 77 million (2014) to 227 million in 2023.
• £250m is being invested in step-free projects at stations including Bond Street, Greenford, Tottenham Court Road, Vauxhall, Victoria and Finsbury Park.
• London has the most accessible bus fleet in the world with each of its 8,600 buses low floor, wheelchair accessible and fitted with a wheelchair ramp. Nearly 80% of bus stops are fully accessible and this will increase to 95% by 2016.
• On-board audible and/or visual announcements are used across bus and rail networks to help people with sight and/or hearing loss.
• The remaining 5% of pedestrian crossings yet to be brought up to accessibility standards will be upgraded with tactile paving, rotating cones or audible alerts by 2016.
• Further improvements include permanent level access at new stations, permanent raised platform sections, low-floor trains and boarding ramps making getting around the network much easier. By 2016, a third of Tube platforms will have level access by one of these means, up from 15% in 2013.
Civil Aviation Authority
Finding information about the special assistance services provided by airports has just become much easier thanks to a new Civil Aviation Authority web directory.
The single CAA webpage includes hyperlinks which go directly to the special assistance web pages of all the UK’s airports and the major airlines flying to and from the UK.
This means passengers with a disability or reduced mobility (PRM) can now quickly find links to essential information from one single source, including descriptions of the services provided, on how to pre-arrange special assistance, the location of drop off and pick up points at airports and any potential restrictions of specialist mobility equipment.
The new web directory is part of the CAA’s ‘Your Right to Fly’, which aims to improve the quality and accessibility of special assistance information available to passengers with reduced mobility.
Last year the UK CAA used its information duties, introduced as part of the Civil Aviation Act 2012, to work with all UK airports and 50 major airlines to improve the special assistance information available on their own websites.
Search ‘disability’ on: www.caa.co.uk