Annex D: Modal data

Bus travel

On the whole, users were positive about bus statistics. Our research highlighted that the Department for Transport’s Bus statistics are useful for understanding accessibility features of the bus network in England, Scotland and Wales. These statistics include data on features such as step-free access and audio-visual guides.

Transport Focus publish data from their Bus Passenger Survey with a disability breakdown. For some calendar years, breakdowns for Scotland and Wales are available. These statistics demonstrate how the experiences of disabled and non-disabled passengers vary.

In Northern Ireland, bus statistics are helpful for identifying how many buses comply with accessibility legislation related to wheelchair access, but do not provide any wider information about accessibility for people with other disabilities and statistics about disabled passenger experiences are not available.

Coach travel

Whilst providing a transport service for the public, many coach services are privately owned and so it is therefore difficult to collect data about coaches and their accessibility. However, Transport Focus carried out research in 2019 looking at how people get to the airport, which concluded that the experience of coach travel is largely positive for those disabled passengers able to use it.

Across the UK, coaches are used for a variety of public transport services including transport to and from school, rail-replacement services and, in Northern Ireland, some longer distance bus services. As with buses, in Northern Ireland coach statistics are helpful for identifying how many buses comply with accessibility legislation related to wheelchair access, but do not provide any wider information about accessibility for people with other disabilities.

Community transport

Community transport, described by the Community Transport Association as “flexible and accessible community-led solutions in response to unmet local transport needs”, provides transport for people who are under-served by mainstream public transport services. This includes those with additional mobility support needs, those in rural areas and those unable to afford other transport modes.

We heard that a lack of data about community transport is making it difficult for the sector to demonstrate its value, and for those funding it to understand where it is providing greatest value for money. Our research found that England’s National Travel Survey, run by the Department of Transport, includes questions about access to Community Transport, but that the responses are not routinely published due to small sample sizes.

Walking and wheeling

Most journeys using public transport begin and end with a pedestrian phase to reach the nearest stop or station. The ease of this pedestrian phase plays an important role in the accessibility of local facilities and transport networks. This is particularly relevant in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, where rules have changed to enable cafes and restaurants to have more outside seating, and where keeping distance from others has become more important.

In terms of data on the subject, the National Travel Survey in England contains a section on walking; respondents are asked how much walking they do and the purposes of their walks. However, these data are not disaggregated by disability status, meaning that it is not informative about barriers to pedestrian environments for disabled people. In our research, we heard from users that there is a lack of information about streetscapes and how well the pedestrian environment works for walking and wheeling, which is an oversight considering how many journeys are multi-modal.

In considering pavements and the built environment from the perspective of disabled people, Disabled People’s Organisation and charities have carried out research and raised awareness of this issue. Disability Equality Scotland have surveyed participants asking if they had problems with physical distancing on pavements and found that pavement parking and street clutter made physical distancing challenging. These concerns are echoed by Guide Dogs, who campaign to make streets more accessible and raise awareness of issues with street clutter, pavement parking, and shared surfaces. Transport for All have researched the impacts on disabled people to changes made to streets which impact on accessibility, including widened pavements, street clutter, and low traffic zones.

Our research highlighted tactile paving as a concern, particularly following the death of Cleveland Gervais, a partially sighted man who died at a train station which did not have tactile paving. There are no official statistics on tactile paving in the UK, however the Department for Transport have a programme to install tactile paving in all stations which follows the recommendations of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch. The Department for Transport audit of stations, explained in the train travel section below, will provide this information for users.

Taxi and dial-a-ride travel

Whilst the number of taxi journeys taken are small for all demographic groups, statistics show that disabled people use taxis more often than people who are not disabled. The 2019 National Travel Survey outlines that, in terms of trips per person per year by main mode, taxis account for 3% of journeys for people with mobility difficulties and 0.7% of journeys for people with no mobility difficulties.

Taxi statistics published by the Department for Transport provide some details about taxis and Private Hire Vehicles licensing policies relating to accessibility in England and Wales. These include whether licensing authorities have a requirement for disability awareness training for drivers, whether there is a requirement for vehicles to be wheelchair accessible in all or part of the fleet and whether a list of wheelchair accessible vehicles is maintained. However, our research suggested that these statistics about policies do not reflect the lived experience of users of taxis, particularly those who require wheelchair access or are travelling with a guide dog.

We heard concerns that statistics are not reflecting the rate at which taxi companies are illegally refusing access to disabled people, or whether attitudes of drivers are a barrier to access for some. A concern was also raised about Transport for London’s Dial-a-ride statistics, which suggest a high rate (around 88% in 2019/2020) of requests for a ride are accepted, however our research suggested users of the service can find it difficult to get through to book a ride, which is not reflected in the statistics. Transport for London told us they are developing a new booking and scheduling system which may help those who have difficulty making a booking.

Train travel

We found a number of data sources about the accessibility of trains. The Office of Rail and Road publish statistics about Disabled Passenger Railcards and Passenger Assistance requests. We have recently reviewed these statistics and have published our findings. These include recommendations for increasing confidence in the quality of the statistical outputs and in their public value.

Transport Focus’s National Rail Passenger Survey includes breakdowns for those with disabilities which enables comparisons to be made about different people’s experiences

Information is collected about the accessibility of train stations across Great Britain and made available as an open data source. These data are not official statistics. As such, there are no quality assured data available on accessible stations. The Williams-Shapps plan for rail states that ‘around 20% of stations have step-free access to all platforms’, but no data source is given. This figure is in contrast with a 2019 House of Commons library research report, which uses a different (undefined) definition of step-free access, and includes the figure that 61% of stations have step-free access. This highlights a real need for agreed definitions and quality assured data. The Access for All programme is a significant part of the Department for Transport’s budget, however, with no transparent statistics, it is not possible to publicly track progress in the improvement of the accessibility of stations.

To address this, following the Williams-Shapps plan for rail, the Department for Transport has commissioned an accessibility audit of all GB stations. The audit aims to provide robust, consistent and detailed information across the full range of station facilities and standards. The audit, which has already begun, aims to assess and identify accessibility solutions at all 2,565 Great Britain train stations over the next 18 months. The Department for Transport has committed to making the data publicly available and updated regularly so that passengers can plan journeys with greater confidence and to provide greater information to improve future investment decisions.

Northern Ireland train stations are not covered by this audit and there is not currently a reliable source of information about the accessibility of train stations. This makes it difficult for people with accessibility requirements to plan their journeys and difficult for analysts to understand how accessible the train network is and where improvements are required.

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