Chapters 3 and 4


Report of Thematic Group 8

The Design and Operation of Accessible Public Transport Systems


3.1 Transport Planning and Integration

It has been stated earlier in this document that transport systems that are badly planned and are not effectively integrated with each other are likely to fail their customers. However, it seems to be one of the most significant areas of neglect within member states.

Adequate planning is the only effective way of ensuring that each mode of transport is compatible and consistent with the next. This consistency must be addressed so that an unbroken transport chain is provided where customers can rely on design standards that meet their needs throughout; where accurate information is provided at each stage in their preferred method of communication and where staff are available to assist them so that an entire journey can be taken without distress, discomfort or delay.

If planning is seen as a total and inclusive initial stage then the broader picture can be seen and obvious discrepancies in service provision can be avoided. In far too many cases, the real analysis of users' needs is only undertaken after the implementation of services, implying that these are of secondary consideration. For example, food has always been lifted on to aircraft, whilst passengers have traditionally struggled to board via steps, and it is only recently that there have been efforts made to assist them. Aircraft boarding lifts are now being successfully used in East Norway while self-raising buses in France are being equally successfully used. This example demonstrates a tendency to add on access services rather than consider them an integral part of planning, and though attitudes are changing, other examples can be seen throughout transport systems across Europe. Often the add on is less effective than this particular example.

There is a misconception that planning of transport systems applies only to urban areas and rural areas are neglected in the process.

Most European countries have started to introduce competition and deregulation of parts of their transport systems. Once this is introduced, the ability to plan a co-ordinated transport system is reduced. There are other effects too.

Before deregulation, city transport systems could offer a type of 'vertical' co-ordination; they owned the track and rolling stock for rail, metro systems and even bus routes. Similarly nationalised bus systems could control all aspects of route planning, timetabling and vehicle specifications across a large geographical area ('horizontal co-ordination'). Rules on monopolies and competition in deregulated markets tend to mitigate against co-ordination of this sort. In theory, one bus operator is prevented from taking over the whole market. Bus operators can now buy train franchises, and co-ordinate the routes and timetables of both buses and trains. This could have beneficial results in terms of transport accessibility, because interchanges should be better. It remains to be seen how rules on monopolies will be applied in these circumstances, but one solution which has already emerged is that operators will have to 'swap' franchises to prevent a monopolistic situation, thereby losing the benefits of integration!

There are some examples of excellent planning throughout Europe however, including that of the computerised taxi service in Lyon. Here, taxis are booked through a centralised computer booking system, whilst the cars themselves are positioned by satellite throughout the city. All taxi drivers are trained in disability awareness and safety. This system is however lacking a cohesive monitoring and evaluation system that would facilitate the feedback to assist the development of service levels.

Piraeus in Greece, whose transport systems cater for a large number of commuters, keep the levels of their services high by operating a policy of continuous consumer participation, and local consultation. Because organisations can be sure of who their customers are and what their specific feedback is, they are able to be certain that the service they provide is geared to effectively meet their needs.

In many countries, transport policies are implemented locally in each county or municipality. This creates autonomous and mutually incompatible systems that will not necessarily adhere to national policy, since the legislation that would ensure this is often not present. When there is no such legislation, a transport operator is in some instances under no obligation to provide fully accessible transport.

Often there is a duty to consult, without specific direction about who to consult with, and absolutely no measures to ensure that the advice offered as a result of the consultation process is used. In many of the member states, a fully accessible transport system currently relies on the commitment of either the municipality or the transport companies themselves. The implication then is that measures to provide accessible transport are acts of good will, or choice, and that all perceived improvements are positive. Clearly passengers with restricted mobility have the same right to travel safely and in comfort as other customers, and the implied benevolence of current practice is nothing less than insulting. Consumer involvement as an integral part of any consultation process is discussed more fully in section 3.7.

What this all means is that situations arise within the same locality where two transport systems can be introduced or modified, supposedly using the same recommendations or guidance but with totally different results, so that design standards and information systems differ and the criteria for eligibility for concessionary fares will often be localised as well.

In addition, there are some modes of transport which are incompatible with their own stops or interchanges. For example, there are many bus companies which have introduced low floor buses, and indeed in many countries there has been a recent provision of government subsidy to make purchase of the vehicles possible. However, in a significant number of the member states, there has been no accompanying commitment to provide safe and appropriate stops so that the buses can be used in the way in which they were intended i.e. with step free access. See section 2.7 for further details of this.

Poor planning needlessly wastes valuable resources.Where a system is introduced with poor access, ultimately it will need to be replaced or modified. Until it has been, it will be under-used by potential passengers who are unable to use it with any degree of comfort and safety. Income will therefore take longer to recover, and it will take longer before effective adaptations become affordable. However, in situations where systems have been introduced that need to be adapted, research shows that revenue spent on access is likely to be quickly recovered and it makes no sense for operators to delay the process.

Organisational gaps cause breaks in the chain, making travel more difficult for everyone, and virtually impossible for a passenger with restricted mobility. Situations where a passenger begins a journey in one locality where the transport system is accessible, and arrives at their destination only to find an entirely new organisational structure including different levels of information services are all too common. This is particularly true of inter-country travel, where passengers have the added difficulty of trying to plan their journey using another language.

In the meantime, this gap in provision can only be met by door to door transport organisations. Here, unlike with other journeys, customers can generally be sure of consistent levels of service from start to finish.


3.2 Information Systems

No-one travels without information. To make any journey one needs accurate information before the journey begins, and during the journey itself.

In providing information it is essential that there is recognition that what is sometimes described as a preferred method of communication is generally determined by ability, in that a choice of method is only made when the standard channels of communication cannot be used; i.e. that people do not choose to use a text phone in preference to a standard telephone, or braille in preference to standard sized print. These are essential methods of communication that are used by significant numbers of the population, and without them independent travel is impossible. As the balance of the population changes, so the use of small print, frequently used in timetables, maps etc, becomes less appropriate, and there are no circumstances where it is appropriate to use it on its own.

What is apparent is that the information varies again not only from country to country, but from locality to locality, and frequently, as is the case with the privatisation of heavy rail in Britain between companies operating in the same area, often through the same station.

Currently, in general, information is usually available before commencing a journey, though the range of media in which it is provided, the amount of information and its clarity varies tremendously between operators, localities and countries. Most methods can be learnt but when the rules change continuously, it is impossible. There are few systems that provide the entire range of accessible media; each has a bias towards one or more disability, though there are a vast number of systems that provide nothing other than plain text. A trend towards answering services and away from telephone operators has been a set back to passengers who need information other than timetables and for whom an additional journey to find the information is difficult.

Information services during a journey are generally more neglected than information prior to the journey, and travel guides provided for use prior to travel are frequently too heavy or cumbersome to carry.

In some cases, to add to the problem, there is too much information, and customers are faced with the problem of piecing different publications together to make sense of the route. In others of course the problem is completely different: insufficient or inaccurate information. The problems are at their greatest in countries where there is a mass fragmentation of an overall system through privatised companies.

Most severely neglected throughout Europe are systems for people who are visually or hearing impaired; tactile information is rarely used, and where it is, it is badly implemented. Information provided at wheelchair eye level is also neglected in most countries.

Internationally agreed pictorial symbols, for example those of male and female toilets have had proven success, and are widely used. Further development of these symbols for use in other areas would greatly enhance levels of communication, and there seems no reason why other methods of communication such as tactile information cannot be similarly standardised. It should be noted however, that the internationally recognised symbol of a wheelchair, denoting disabled access is rarely situated at anything other than ambulant eye-level. In addition, it should be remembered that this symbol is designed to communicate to a person with a disability that the environment is accessible, not to communicate to a designer that everyone with a disability uses a wheelchair!

Again, what is needed are agreed levels and types of provision that are consistent throughout Europe and include the following:

3.2.1 the same amount of information prior to travel provided in braille, large print, and pictorial symbols, and through a telephone information service, as well as in plain texts;

3.2.2 the above written information to be posted free of charge where passengers are not able to collect such things as timetables;

3.2.3 the same agreed typeface with the same series of font sizes used throughout Europe;

3.2.4 information en route to be provided audibly, pictorially, and in large print and braille at the same level throughout Europe;

3.2.5 information to be available in at least three languages throughout Europe.

Ideally transport providers should be obliged to provide details of their services to centralised departments which could then inform customers of travelling times etc for their entire journey.

TURTLE and TOUCHCARD are two information systems which have being piloted in European funded programmes. It is essential that pictograms such as those used in the TOUCHCARD project should draw on work already done elsewhere. A 'speaking guide' is available to travellers in Copenhagen railway station. Tripscope in the UK provides the disabled traveller with information about a large number of transport services. Although its remit does not extend to promoting co-ordination between them, this could be considered as a possibility.

In Barcelona, SIPTRE is a Geographic Information System (GIS), where information is associated with map locations, so that, for example, the position of 'dropped kerbs' (or 'cuts' as they are called in Barcelona) is known with a high degree of accuracy. This, together with details of transport interchanges and timetables, enables the operator to advise callers on how best to make a journey, so that all parts of the transport chain are known to be accessible for them. One of the challenges for such a system is to encourage people to use it. Reliability of information is therefore crucial, as people given incorrect or outdated information will be reluctant to trust it again.


3.3 Language And Ethnicity

A significant proportion of the population of many countries do not speak or read the national language of that country. For these people, information is either not available at all, or is only available with assistance.

This problem is of course compounded in the case of international travel. There are very few examples of information that is provided in more than the national language except at International Terminals, although clearly Member States have multi-racial, multi-cultural populations. Opportunity to travel or reside within other Member States, whilst the right of European citizens, is vastly reduced for people with a disability, particularly for the visually impaired. Further, the current systems disaffirm the rights of the total population in any multi-racial community, and in areas where there are known numbers of the community of a different racial heritage, information should be provided in that particular language in the same range of media.

Wandsworth Community Transport in London employs a member of staff who speaks four Asian community languages, and translates all its information into those languages, to help overcome these barriers. A special 'language line' telephone number is provided so that callers will have the confidence that they will be understood.

Another ethnic difference that needs to be recognised, particularly by door-to-door transport operators is that some Asian women are unwilling, for religious reasons, to be assisted by a male driver. This is likely to become more of an issue, as traditional Asian communities break down, and more elderly people live alone.


3.4 Access To The Service

In some European countries, there is legislation preventing people with disabilities, and particularly wheelchair users, from using certain transport systems. Most of these bans have been lifted; those that have not are due to be lifted in the near future, but the issue remains the same: with or without the ban, how accessible is the transport? For example, until very recently wheelchair users were prevented from using the London Underground; they were seen as a fire risk. This ban has now been lifted, and technically, a wheelchair user is able to use the service. However, the majority of Underground Stations are still completely inaccessible to a wheelchair user, and so, whilst equal rights have been reinstated, equal opportunities are still denied. Moreover, the decision to travel has shifted from the provider to the purchaser, and the decision to travel via other more accessible methods will often incur addition costs.

Whilst concessionary fares, or travel allowances are provided in most European Countries, there is again inconsistency in the criteria for eligibility and the amount or adequacy of the concession. There is further fragmentation within some countries where the localities themselves use different criteria. Situations arise where a person is eligible to use services in their own municipality but not in a neighbouring one where they work. In the second locality, a person is entitled to concessionary fares in both localities because people in this locality have a greater entitlement. However, some countries, notably the Netherlands and Norway perceive such concessions as acts of charity, and do not provide them as a result.

Further complicating the issue of eligibility is that different countries have established eligibility through different criteria, including eligibility by age. For example, in Denmark, concessionary fares are provided automatically to people over the age of 67, whilst in Portugal, to people above 65.

In addition, although concessionary fares are provided in most countries, public transport systems are generally so inaccessible that additional allowances are necessary so that alternative methods can be used. Again decentralised funding causes inconsistency and in some cases, one person may be able to afford ten taxi-rides per month because of the allowance provided by their Local Authority, whilst a neighbour can afford twelve because they have a different Local Authority who award higher allowances.

Some member states consider the provision of concessionary fares insulting and an act of charity, whilst in others, concessionary fares, subsidised via the transport companies are considered more acceptable than grants from Social Funds. What is consistently obvious is that passengers with restricted mobility are not receiving the same level of service as other customers, whether they receive subsidised fares or not.

Again, in order for people with disabilities to become truly mobile throughout Europe, these inconsistencies need to be addressed so that entitlements remain the same wherever you travel or choose to live.

Some of the differences in approach depend not only on the country within which the travel takes place, but also on the country of origin, type of disability and mode of transport. For example, in the case of rail travel, a European-wide agreement would allow a disabled person and companion to travel together for the price of one single fare from the country of origin to the destination and back. The ticket for the entire journey must be purchased in the country of origin. Any additional tickets purchased on route would not be covered by the same concessions. In many countries the 'two for the price of one' system would not apply for a domestic journey, where the maximum concession might for example be only 34% of the standard fare. In the case of air travel, a 'two for the price of one' ticket is available for domestic flights in the UK, but not for international flights. Similar concessions are not widely available in other European countries. The fare structure for bus and coach travel, door-to-door service and taxis varies so widely that comparisons can be difficult to make.

The reason for these wide differences in availability of concessionary fares and subsidised travel seems to be based on a combination of philosophical and political attitudes and commercial needs. Whatever the arguments for and against the different systems, the end result is a complex and almost incomprehensible fare structure. In order to travel by the cheapest route, it may be necessary to spend a considerable amount of time in planning the journey, to find optimal travel times and routes. The planning of a journey can be difficult enough already, due to the fundamental inaccessibility of so many parts of the public transport network, and the additional complexity of dealing with different fare structures is an unwelcome additional burden.

Whilst recognising different local and national political approaches, it would nevertheless seem advantageous, at least where international travel is concerned, to devise some common fare structure which is not dependent on the country of origin, place of purchase or mode of travel.

In countries where the subsidy model provides door-to-door transport at low cost to the passenger, operators have to decide on eligibility criteria and operating policies. A number of questions are raised in this:

How is eligibility determined? Is there a limit to the number of journeys a passenger is allowed to make? How far are passengers allowed to travel? How far ahead or how spontaneously are passengers able to book their journeys?

Evaluation and monitoring of accessible transport systems should be carried out both by the operator, and independently. In London, DaRT has produced a number of papers in which various aspects of accessible transport provision are evaluated. User-led organisations such as DaRT are best placed to ensure that evaluation methods are appropriate and reflect the true needs of the customer. It is an unfortunate fact that many transport operators design their operating policies for their own administrative convenience, rather than to provide the service their customers need.

The above questions are also discussed in 'Evaluating Community Transport: Policy, Performance And Practice - Practical Evaluation in the CT Sector' by Steve Smythe (Wandsworth Community Transport, 1989).


3.5 Operational Co-ordination

It is important that accessible transport is seen and funded as part of the public transport system, rather than a 'welfare service'. This will maximise the opportunities for operational co-ordination between specialist and mainstream transport providers.

A good example of operational co-ordination in the field of accessible transport can be seen in Lyon. Here the door-to-door operator (Optibus) takes bookings from its customers and schedules them afterwards. Optibus is thereby able to maximise the occupancy of its minibuses by combining journeys. Optibus are able to satisfy all trip requests (within their operating area). They have an arrangement with the local computer-controlled taxi company to 'contract out' any journeys which cannot easily be accommodated on one of their own vehicles. Coupled with this is a system where regular bookings are worked into the schedules first, which also has the benefit of reducing demand on the phone lines. The taxi company uses its computerised tracking system to anticipate demand levels and adjust provision accordingly. Also in Lyon, Optibus have provided a 'rescue service' for passengers left stranded when the accessible metro system breaks down.

In the Netherlands, the 'Treintaxi' system enables rail users to be met at their destination station by an accessible minibus, and then taken on to their final destination. The driver will meet the passenger on the platform, and assist the passenger in alighting from the train, making use of portable ramps stowed on each platform, if necessary. This facility overcomes the lack of personal assistance on unattended stations. The service normally has to be arranged a day in advance, although the train operator will try to assist with more spontaneous requests. Schipol airport in Amsterdam has an interchange with the rail system, and assistance is also available for passengers needing to transfer by rail to the city centre (or other destinations).

An interesting European-funded project (ASTI) is currently underway in Camden, London. This is a project which links transport accessibility with environmental sustainability, and involves the London Borough Of Camden, Camden Community Transport and Islington Health Authority, together with other partners. A major part of the project involves the development and testing of alternative propulsion methods such as electric and gas-fuelled minibuses.

In addition, the project is investigating the potential for integrating different 'door-to-door' transport provision, within the local area. This involves technology such as satellite tracking and GIS systems to aid real-time scheduling, as well as operational co-ordination of resources. This co-ordination is achieved by centralised scheduling of vehicles owned and operated by a number of different transport providers. This project will provide an interesting test of the 'vertical integration' model, as applied to door-to-door transport, and will be compared with the results of London Transport's introduction of horizontal integration within the Dial-a-Ride door-to-door service across London, which has been criticised as bureaucratic, inefficient and unresponsive.


3.6 Staff Training

As has been already discussed in other parts of this document, staff training provides a fundamental part of any transport organisation. A large percentage of people with disabilities are unable to use public transport without the assistance of staff, particularly when design provision is not adequate and information is unclear or inadequate. Above all the reassurance that competent staff are available in the event of something going wrong is often the key factor in deciding whether to travel or not. Confidence in using an unfamiliar system relies heavily on the ability to seek assistance from trained staff.

However, the adequacy of training rarely meets the needs of passengers in most Member States and whilst this situation is improving, it urgently needs to be addressed. In a large percentage of transport organisations, in the majority of Member States, staff training is non-compulsory and therefore any form of assistance relies on the good will/benevolence of the staff concerned. This factor alone can cause situations where people are given inappropriate assistance, caused unnecessary distress and confusion, and are frequently also put at risk.

Transport providers often have policies that all their staff are trained in disability awareness without stating what this involves; who will train the staff, how such training will be implemented, or how the effectiveness of such training will be measured. The effect of producing such statements is that they are usually left to individual managers to interpret. This causes situations where policy statements are so vague that a manager could at one extreme send his entire staff on a three day dedicated course with yearly refreshers, or at the other extreme cover the issues over a period of a few hours during basic induction, having had no training himself, and still be technically fulfilling the commitments of the policy statement.

For example, a statement such as 'LUL will ensure that all relevant staff receive disability awareness training' is typical of the way policy statements are written. Closer inspection of this particular policy reveals that this staff training includes the emergency evacuation of passengers using carry sheets, a briefing on how to identify and assist passengers with disabilities, and details of other training available.

The perception that training on the needs of passengers can be covered within a briefing is unrealistic and uninformed, as is the implication that over and above this safe evacuation in an emergency is the only other perceived need. Furthermore, in this particular case the briefing is usually given by another member of staff, and there is no guidance to suggest that this person needs to have been thoroughly trained first.

There is no obligation on the part of managers or individuals to undertake the additional training. Interestingly, key staff, such as managers, architects and designers, are not obliged to receive the initial induction as it currently only applies to station staff, and to a lesser extent to train drivers. This is just one example, and similar training policies can be found throughout Europe.

Even when initial training is perceived as adequate, there is rarely an obligation to update or refresh knowledge, and with the current level of inaccessible transport systems, staff do not have the opportunity to maintain their skills as current.

Moreover, training budgets are frequently the localised responsibility of individual managers, who must meet the total training needs of their staff from the same budget. All the time that people with disabilities are perceived as being a minority group, so budgetary considerations will cause disability awareness and safety training to be considered as low priority, and because so many systems are currently either partially or completely inaccessible, people will not attempt journeys; so that budgets are currently being managed in response to unrealistic perceptions.

As transport systems become more accessible, so the need for training to be provided as a continuum will lessen in that staff will be developing their awareness on an ongoing basis. Until this happens, comprehensive staff training and customer services are the only way of compensating for the void in design provision, but this should never be viewed as an acceptable alternative.

Many facilities that are currently provided are adaptations rather than integral elements within the overall design and require staff assistance; for example stair climbers and other stair lifts, which have been introduced to save the cost of providing appropriate lifts. If there is ever a time when all transport systems are independently usable by the passengers, the emphasis of staff training will shift from fundamental issues of safety to developing a greater level of ability in meeting passengers' needs, for example, learning a basic level of sign language or skills in guiding passengers who have no sight.


3.7 Consumer Involvement

There is no way of measuring the effectiveness of a transport system without both a clear analysis of user needs and active consumer involvement. These are not finite single-stage elements employed at the planning stage only, though clearly this is the most important stage, but must be used as an on-going commitment to customers. Generally speaking those companies who do involve their passengers maintain a higher level of service, though the process is sometimes rendered completely ineffective by a tendency to disregard the advice provided when it is likely to incur costs or cause the aesthetics of a design to be spoilt.

Feedback from users indicates that there is an unacceptably low commitment to consultation throughout Member States and no legislation that would make this obligatory.

Consultation committees established on a national basis exist in some European countries, and provide opinion and recommendations as do non-statutory user groups such as access groups. Other countries rely solely on occasional research to establish passenger needs. Such 'user surveys' should ideally contain an action plan for improvements with estimated costings, and if possible a commitment from the relevant parties to implement the improvements, with an associated timetable.

Users' groups, which are more likely to be consulted at a local level, consistently feel that they are under used and often that their advice is ignored. In addition there is a common perception that official consultation and research groups act only as a filter between disabled passengers and those with the power to make changes, and that they are reluctant to apply pressure. The resulting process exists then in name only, and acts as a catalyst for frustration, anger and cynicism.

Ultimately it means that elderly people, and people with disabilities are forced to lobby and become further isolated, viewed as being difficult and radical.

Valuable lessons can be learnt and the majority of mistakes avoided if user groups and disability organisations are used both to train staff and at each stage of the policy process.


3.8 Provision Of Customer Assistants and Escorts

The increasing trend towards unstaffed train stations has led to a reduction in service availability for disabled people, especially where access is inadequate. Although provision of escorts seems to be contrary to the move towards independence, human assistance will always be desirable for some people, such as elderly people, or people with learning difficulties. This is one of the main findings of an American Study 'Improving Bus Accessibility Systems For Persons With Sensory and Cognitive Impairments' by Hunter-Zaworski and Hron (Transportation Research Institute, Oregon State University, 1993).

In Belfast, Citibus has a 'Travel Club' for passengers who require assistance, whereby the driver would be advised in advance and look out for them en route. Another idea is the use of a visible aid such as a yellow glove, so that passengers can hail a passing bus. 'Hail and Ride' routes themselves have proved very effective in reducing walking distances for passengers who live on or near a bus route, but some distance from a stop.

All staff in the transport chain need to have appropriate training in assisting disabled people, including assisting those with sensory handicap. Indeed, disabled people themselves can benefit from receiving mobility training, which also helps to increase confidence in using transport independently.

The provision of assistance can be achieved through volunteers (who must receive equally good training), although in some countries there are cultural and organisational barriers to this. If volunteers are to be used, in addition to training, they must receive good support, and should not be seen as 'cheap labour'. Volunteering can be very rewarding for the volunteer, if managed well and properly resourced.

Personal assistance is often a difficult issue at transport interchanges, where different providers are involved. Policies should be agreed between providers so that assistance is available for people who need it in transferring from one service to another. Once again this is a crucial 'link' in the transport chain upon which the accessibility of the whole system can sometimes depend. Pilot programmes covering this matter exist in Paris and Belfast.

Sometimes accessibility can be the victim of automation, and increasing 'computerisation' of information and services. It is often the case that the intervention of human assistance is necessary to combat design inadequacies of computerised systems. To put it another way, computerised systems should have a 'fallback' system involving human assistance or intervention.




4.1 Policy Principles

The purpose of having a policy is that it provides a clear unambiguous set of principles. They describe standards, aims with accompanying objectives rather than simply aims, and create accountability as soon as they are published. They are not legally binding, in the same way as legislation, but should state what law they comply to, and should have written into them, a way in which to monitor their effectiveness, and a channel for complaint so that they may be challenged. Without these two elements, any policy becomes a sales document without meaning, and should not be trusted as being the true principles of its authors. In addition, they must describe the way in which they should be implemented.

The following policy principles should govern the provision of accessible transport systems:

Design standards

4.1.1 Transport should be safe.

4.1.2 Professionals involved in the operation or design of public transport systems or infrastructure should have, as part of their qualification, training in disability awareness.

4.1.3 Standards should be based on functionality rather than absolute specifications. Interpretation and implementation of such design standards should be tested by users in each case.

4.1.4 Transport systems should recognise language and cultural differences.


User involvement at all levels

4.1.5 Disability groups should co-ordinate their actions and co-operate to achieve common aims.

4.1.6 Disabled people should be involved at a decision-making level in the design and operation of transport systems.

4.1.7 It is very important that the principle of user involvement and participation is recognised and perhaps underpinned by a mandatory requirement to ensure that mechanisms are put in place to ensure the realisation of this principle.


Policy development and legislation

4.1.8 It should be national policy in each member state that Public Transport is integrated, accessible and affordable.

4.1.9 Transport services should be provided at sufficient levels to cater for peak and off-peak demand levels.

4.1.10 Design standards for public transport systems should be mandatory (compulsory).

4.1.11 Successful implementation of mandatory design standards should be independently assessed in a consistent European-wide manner (like a blue flag for a beach).


4.2 Legislation

What is currently lacking in the majority of countries is the adequate legislation to which any policy must comply. The following demonstrates some differences between legislative practices in member states.



Legislation requires new buildings or changes to existing buildings to be accessible. It is generally considered by users not to be far reaching or specific enough. It does not apply to transport systems.



Legislation passed in 1975 requires transport systems to be accessible as does the transport law (LOT) although, it is considered to be ineffective as it does not provide specifications. COLITRAH (Comité de liaison pour le transport des personnes handicapées) provides advice on accessibility and is a government appointed body. This body has no authority to enforce its recommendations.



Legislation exists at a local level which covers the buses and metro system in Athens. At a national level, legislation covering airports was introduced in 1983, and there is also legislation covering ferries of more than 50m length (Presidential Decree 101/1995).


Legislation does not exist that covers all modes of transport, and each mode has its own regulations or guidance. There are separate regulations for buses, guidance for metro systems, but no effective national regulations or guidance for trams and trains.



Legislation takes the form of Building Regulations Part M and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995). The Building Regulations apply to new buildings and to the re-design of existing buildings. They do not apply to transport, and did not apply to many public buildings which have Crown immunity. The DDA will apply to transport systems but as yet there are no compliance dates set, and it is unenforceable as it provides the user with no means of using it to challenge discrimination. Guidance and Regulations are provided for trains via the Rail Regulators Report, and DPTAC provides recommendations for other modes such as specifications for buses.


4.3 Civil Rights

European laws protect people from other forms of discrimination and equal opportunities can be ensured through challenging such laws. Access, however, is not included within these laws as an agreed civil right, despite the fact that without it, a person with restricted mobility is denied the same freedom as other people. Most member states have implemented laws of positive discrimination, particularly with reference to employment and education, but people with disabilities are still unable to exercise their rights as they are denied the right to make the journey safely to get to work in the same way as others. Some national laws for example the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act in the United Kingdom seem on the surface to be of great benefit to people with disabilities but as yet, compliance dates are not set, and there is currently no recourse to challenge, as there is no independent monitoring body with statutory powers, as exists with racial and sex discrimination.

Similarly, other countries within Europe experience the same difficulties in that there are laws but as they cannot be challenged, they are ineffective. This obviously raises the issue of whether a serious commitment has been made to challenging discrimination against people with disabilities. What is needed, is a single European law that is prescriptive, and to which all member states and transport providers must then comply. In addition it must allow the people for whose benefit it is intended to use it to challenge discrimination and for both the user to be appropriately compensated and the transport operator penalised.

Until that time, campaigning is necessary to raise awareness of the issues, and to persuade people of the need for legislation. Users' organisations must use a range of campaigning techniques from direct action to direct dialogue! They should also be armed with a series of well-researched (and rehearsed) arguments. They must set the policy agenda rather than reacting to an agenda set by others. It is important to be able to control events with comprehensive strategies. However, such actions can only take place when there is collaborative working among and between organisations. It must be remembered that transport operators' organisations, such as UITP, employ full-time lobbyists in Brussels to ensure that EC actions do not adversely affect their members. Disabled people and their organisations should be equally as organised.

The following tactics are suggested as key elements in a successful campaign.

4.3.1 Awareness-raising

4.3.2 Advice and consultancy

4.3.3 Legislation and regulation

4.3.4 Education and training

4.3.5 Research


A good example of awareness-raising and education is the 'Sad Bluehound Bus' storybook, used by Helsinki City Transport to raise children's awareness of the social importance of transport accessibility. This is also used in conjunction with wooden toy low-floor buses, whose toy passengers have a wide range of personal mobilities.


4.4 Population Trends

There can be no doubt that the population of Europe is getting older. It is estimated that in the next 50 years the population over the age of 65 will double in the countries of the OECD, increasing from 87 million to approximately 175 million. The number of those over 80 years of age will triple to around 47 million. Thus, the 'aged' will account for 20-30% of the population compared with 10-15% today. This is confirmed by research by the Royal College of Art (UK), which shows that the proportion of older people to younger people has been growing for more than a century. According to their statistics, there will be more than 115 million people over the age of 50 in the EU by the year 2000. In Sweden, the 'oldest' country in Europe, the over 75s will amount to 14% of the working age population by then, with the average across EU approaching 11%. As it gets older, so the balance of wealth shifts proportionately, so that in order to remain financially viable, services need to adapt to the changing market and those with disposable income.


UK Population Distribution Projections




In 1993, the Wandsworth Health Authority (as it was then), published some interesting population demographics showing a 'bulge' in the 20-34 age ranges in the general population. However, when the same figures were analysed for Black Caribbean, Indian and Bangladeshi residents, it can be seen that the age distribution is quite different, and that there are proportionally more elderly people from those ethnic backgrounds, as well as more 'soon to be elderly people'. This has important consequences for transport planning, which are related to language and ethnicity considerations (see section 3.3).

Wandsworth Health Authority - age distribution comparisons (1993)


4.5 Cost Benefit Analysis

Much research has been done that has analysed the cross-sector benefits of accessible transport systems, and there is a likelihood that funding through COST will be provided for further research.

This research has shown several positive aspects in providing fully accessible transport systems.

Firstly, the numbers of mobility impaired passengers using services has increased dramatically. The effect of this is to increase revenues for the transport companies which, if applied to fare reductions, would increase usage further. The environment also benefits, in that the more people who travel on public transport systems, the less there are travelling in small number in cars.

Because there is no significant delay in passengers boarding and alighting the journey time is reduced. Some companies report that this has meant that faster, more efficient and more frequent journeys are able to be made, providing customers with a further incentive to travel.

In the County of Sogn og Fjordane, Norway, a system of integrated low-floor midi buses and larger articulated low-floor buses has been introduced. Interchange areas provide passengers with a smooth transition from one vehicle to another, both organisationally and by the compatible design of the vehicle (all the larger express buses are fitted with a lift and an accessible toilet). This particular example demonstrates real cost benefits since they have experienced an increased use of services of 20% each year for the past three years. This system is of additional interest since it is a rural area.

Cross Sector Benefits represent efficiencies of resource use, within and between sectors, as a result of providing disabled and other people with accessible public transport. It has been proven that because people with disabilities are able to make journeys independently, the number of services that are delivered to them are greatly reduced. In one study 'Cross Sector Benefits of Accessible Transport' (Fowkes, Oxley and Heiser, Cranfield University, 1995) an example used showed that the number of patients that a chiropodist is able to see in one day is reduced because of the time wasted travelling between appointments. A home visit incurred twice the cost of a visit to a clinic. The same is likely to be true of large numbers of the medical and other professions, and if disabled people are able to travel to places for health care they are likely to receive a better quality service. Additionally car allowances provided for medical staff to make these journeys could be saved. Examples given in the report suggest that a 10% reduction in the need to provide domiciliary chiropody visits could realise benefits of £0.8 million; a 50% reduction would achieve £3.8 million and so on.

Cranfield's research estimates the potential scale of cross sector benefits in the UK as being as much as £1 billion per annum. The figures shown below, taken from this research show a series of estimated benefits. The value is based on average costs and a range is given.

Estimates of Cross Sector Benefits (UK, £ Million, UK 1990/91)









Another study on this subject which took place in Sweden, is 'Service Routes In Boras' (Stahl, Lund Institute of Technology, 1989).


4.6 Research Gaps

We have identified the following as potential areas of research with a political dimension.

4.6.1 A comparative European Cross-Sector benefits study.

4.6.2 Achieving user involvement: developing frameworks.

4.6.3 Devising assessment criteria with a view to the development of a core-network of accessible railway stations.

4.6.4 Surveys of operators' attitudes and plans for accessibility measures.

4.6.5 A feasibility study into the European Taxicard scheme.

4.6.6 Door-to-door services: an evaluation of developing user needs for the next millennium.