West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper is calling on local bus company Arriva to act faster to ensure all of its buses are accessible for people with disabilities.
Rosie took up the case of a local disabled teenager, Victoria Young, who was left stranded in Wigan for 3 hours due to a lack of buses with low-floor access. After hearing about the incident, Rosie asked a question in a Parliamentary debate on public transport accessibility and asked what the Government is doing to ensure private bus companies are improving access to buses for disabled people.
Speaking in the debate, Rosie said:
“The Government's free concessionary travel pass shows commitment to enabling disabled people access to public transport, but it is rendered useless if private bus companies neglect their duty to provide accessible transport. I would like to ask my hon. Friend the Minister to agree that… no disabled person the length and breadth of this country should have to accept not being able to use public transport.”
Transport Minister Paul Clark said that the instance highlighted in the Advertiser of Victoria being stranded in Wigan for three hours before finally being forced to pay for a taxi at a cost of £17 was “totally unacceptable”:
“A concessionary bus pass or a disabled person’s bus pass will not help if there is no access to the facility in the first place. That is why the work we have been doing with critical operators… is intended to move us sensibly towards making accessibility a reality. Of course, we all want that to happen sooner, but the time scale is sensible in terms of meeting requirements and phasing in new vehicles.”
The Government has introduced legislation to ensure all trains are accessible by 1st January 2020, and all local scheduled bus services by 1st January 2017.
However, Rosie says this is not good enough:
“I applaud moves by the Government to ensure all buses will be accessible by 2017. However, although I realise that people may be used to waiting around for their bus to arrive, I think 8 years is a long time to wait for a bus by any standard. I have written to Arriva again to urge them to speed up their timetable for introducing accessible buses in West Lancashire and getting rid of the cast offs from the Wirral.”