The Department for Transport (DfT) has published an Inclusive Mobility Strategy backed by more than £300m to help ensure proper access for disabled people to transport networks and the public realm.
The new measures aim to make transport fully accessible for all passengers by 2030, and while the infrastructure may take time to build the government has pledged to move 'at pace' around issues such as staff training, accessible information, and the ability to secure redress when things go wrong.
Transport accessibility minister Nusrat Ghani said: 'For our ageing population and the fifth of people who are disabled, access to transport can be far from straightforward.
'This Inclusive Transport Strategy is the first step in achieving a genuinely inclusive transport network, which meets the needs of all people, regardless of whether they are disabled or not.'
Among the key announcements is a recommendation for local authorities to pause the development of shared space schemes, 'while we review and update the Department’s guidance'.
These schemes, which often include the removal of kerbs and crossings, have caused anger among blind and partially sighted groups who claim they make the streets harder to navigate and have created no go areas for the disabled.
A long running campaign spearheaded by Conservative peer Lord Holmes and the National Federation of the Blind of the UK and its shared space coordinator Sarah Gayton, has for several years called for a halt to shared space.
The DfT strategy states: 'We recommend that Local Authorities pause the development of shared space schemes which incorporate a level surface while we review and update guidance. Alongside this, we will temporarily withdraw Local Transport Note 1/11: Shared Space.'
The president of NFBUK, Andrew Hodgson, said: 'This is brilliant news and I would like to thank all the other 48 organisations who backed our petition to halt shared space roads, which we submitted to the Prime Minister on the 24thof April 2018.
'The Government has listened and we are positive that they only way forward is for inclusive design guidance, which, will have to include kerbs and controlled crossings to ensure pedestrians do not have to share space with vehicles.'
On wider public realm design, the strategy recognises there 'is a need to go further to ensure guidance is up-to-date and relevant, and that practitioners have the skills to use it effectively'.
'We want transport professionals to deliver inclusive infrastructure which meets the Public Sector Equality Duty and involves active engagement with groups representing the interests of older and disabled people. We will work with the institutions representing engineering and design professionals to achieve this, including running workshops aimed at transport professionals to educate them on their obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty.'
By autumn 2018, the DfT 'will publish conclusions with the view to expanding or updating the Inclusive Mobility and Tactile Paving guidance and exploring whether the two sets of documents should be combined'.
This work will include consideration of issues around mobility scooters and their use on pavements.
The Government has committed to investing 'up to £300m of funding into extending the Access for All programme, making railway stations more accessible, including through step-free access'.
There are also commitments to produce league tables, which highlight operators that are delivering the best service for disabled people.
Other measures include supporting the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) to improve and simplify Passenger Assist – the system disabled passengers use to book assistance on the rail network.
The DfT will 'require a minimum target for the successful completion of booked assistance through the Passenger Assist scheme, and ensure that train operators who fail to deliver the assistance booked will provide financial compensation to passengers'.
- £2m to install Changing Places toilets at motorway service stations, supporting disabled people to travel easily and comfortably on the road network
- £2m for audio and visual equipment on buses, so that passengers on almost every bus will know where and when to alight a
- £2m passenger awareness campaign to increase disability awareness and reduce hate crime on our network
- an accreditation scheme for transport operators to receive formal recognition for positive work to improve disabled passengers’ experiences, such as training frontline staff and senior management on disability awareness ensuring future technology is designed inclusively from the outset, with opportunities sought to harness innovation
- An online tool to assist disabled people in reporting issues they encounter when travelling by bus, with the development of this tool being informed by the experiences of disabled people.
- A new stakeholder advisory group, the Pan-disability Transport Advisory Group (PTAG), to provide external support in rolling out the actions in the Strategy.
- DfT will work with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to review performance standards for airports and airlines, using the upcoming Aviation Strategy to set out any areas in which these standards need to be tougher.
As the Government makes a push to expand the use of electric vehicles, prior to the 2040 ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel cars, it has pledged to adopt The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE) technical requirement for electric vehicles to have a noise generator fitted, ensuring pedestrian safety.
'Standards will be directly applicable to vehicles entering the UK market from 1 July 2019 and ensure electric vehicles are safe for road users while still reducing noise pollution.'