Gov ignores MPs' recommendations on transport accessibility


The Government has refused to act on key recommendations from MPs to help improve transport accessibility for disabled and vulnerable residents.

In its response to the environmental audit committee’s recent report on transport and access to public services, ministers rejected the committee’s calls for the Government to create a cross-department working group on the issue.

DfT will not survey transport users but is looking into 'social value'

MPs on the committee suggested this would help ensure transport accessibility is free from Whitehall’s culture of departmental silo working.

However ministers preferred to let the matter rest with local authorities stating ‘we believe that local communities, local government and transport operators are best placed to identify practical solutions’.

The Government also refused to act on the committee’s calls for a survey of potential transport users ‘to establish whether perceptions of disability unawareness has been making them reluctant to travel’.

The news comes as the Department for Transport prepares to launch a review after this month into the number of bus and coach drivers who have undertaken disability awareness training.

A DfT spokeswoman told Transport Network: 'The review will focus specifically on assessing whether the number of drivers who have undertaken some form of disability awareness training has increased since March 2013, rather than on passenger attitudes towards the training itself.'

Earlier this year the Government secured a five-year exemption to EU Regulations requiring bus and coach drivers to undertake mandatory disability awareness training. Whitehall officials said the exemption was needed to give drivers and companies more time to prepare.

However the Government agreed to review the exemption to check drivers were making progress on adequate levels of training, with the focus being on the Confederation of Passenger Transport’s (CPT) estimate that 75% of all drivers have undertaken some form of disability awareness training.

‘If a significant upward trend in disability awareness training is not shown, we will examine options and propose a plan of action to encourage the industry to undertake this kind of training,’ Government officials told the environmental audit committee.

However the DfT also revealed the ‘social value’ of transport may become more of a factor in guiding investment decisions.

Research the department commissioned into valuing the social impact of bus travel has now been completed and the report will be published later this year.

Officials said: ‘The Department will consider how the outputs of the research can be used to help inform decision-making through better reflecting social impacts in investment appraisal guidance. The Department will ensure that the research is disseminated internally and the recommendations highlighted to other areas of the Department.’

The Government response to the committee also revealed the DfT will soon launch a major review of its statistics research in a move that could result in cuts to the amount of transport data collected.

The results of the review ‘will be used to plan what statistics we produce in future, and how they can be produced most efficiently given the resources available,’ officials said.

The review is set to be launched this Autumn alongside the delayed release of the 2012 Accessibility Statistics, which a DfT spokeswoman told Transport Network has been postponed until the end of September.

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