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Accessible travel for older and disabled people

12:00am | & News

Travelling by public transport can be difficult for those with limited mobility and disabilities, but do not let that put you off travelling. The key thing is to plan your journey well. 

Disabled Transport User on Mobility Scooter on Bus
Accessible buses are more common in the city


Network Rail has worked to make stations more accessible for all, with disabled car parking spaces, accessible toilets, ramps and lifts. Rail companies offer assistance for older people and people with disabilities, but the service usually has to be booked at least 24 hours in advance, which is inconvenient for some passengers and precludes spontaneous journeys for those who cannot travel without assistance.

On board most trains now have accessible toilets and provide ramps where needed for getting off the train. However, you may need to remind the guard that you require assistance.

The UKs railways were recently voted the best in terms of accessibility out of all those in the major countries in Europe. Overall, almost four out of five people (78 percent) surveyed in the UK gave either a "high" or "good" rating to services on its railway ahead of satisfaction levels among passengers in France (74 percent), Netherlands (67 percent), Germany (51 percent) and Italy (39 percent) but naturally there is still room for improvement.


Accessibility varies enormously by region, although cities are invariably better served than rural areas. In London there are accessible buses on all routes and many buses can be lowered at one side to make it easier for passengers with reduced mobility to board the bus. Some bus stops are still not wheelchair friendly, but Transport For London aim to have 95% of stops accessible by 2016.

London Underground

There is still much work to be done on making the tube accessible for all. Older people who can manage escalators will have far more scope for using the underground than wheelchair users, with only around 25% of tube stations having step free access. Having been more recently built, the DLR is wheelchair friendly with step free access at all stations.

Air travel

Most airport buildings are large and passengers may need to walk long distances from the airport entrance to the gate. Some airports, such as Heathrow, will not allow you to pre-book special assistance, but they do have help points with phones which you can use to call for assistance.

Help points are located in car parks, at adjacent train stations where relevant, and within the airport. Allow plenty of extra time, particularly if you are travelling at peak times in case you have to wait for assistance. When you book your flight, you should ensure that you also request any special assistance you need on board.

Legislation introduced in recent years, such as the Equality Act 2010, has helped to improve things for people with disabilities and reduced mobility, but it is clear from reports from consumer groups that some journeys are still difficult. With over 1.3 million journeys made daily by disabled passengers and 700,000 by people over 75 years, in London alone, there is clearly a demand for accessible travel, and we are certain to see improvements in the coming years.

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