The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that there will be major audit of all UK railway stations and fast-tracked improvements, as well as new laws to boost accessibility standards on buses and taxis.
The measures come as part of government’s new National Disability Strategy.
The DfT is unveiling a range of initiatives to remove barriers and improve confidence for disabled people as they return to trains, buses and taxis after the pandemic.
The audit of all UK train stations, originally pledged in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, is now under way – helping to identify improvements and highlighting existing areas of excellence. The findings will form a new public database so people can plan their journeys. Input from disabled passengers will shape future investment in accessible rail travel.
DfT will also work with Network Rail to improve safety with a new programme to install all station platforms with tactile paving. This comes on top of work to develop a Passenger Assist App to simplify communication with rail staff and encourage better customer service.
The government will bring forward new regulations to force bus companies to provide audible and visual announcements on board.
New research into the designs of bus stops and stations will ensure they are accessible for all.
DfT will also support new legislation for taxis and private hire vehicles, protecting disabled passengers from being overcharged and to better ensure they get the right help from drivers.
Accessibility minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Disabled passengers should be empowered to use all forms of transport with the same confidence as everyone else – whether by taxi, train, bus or ferry.
“Today’s measures will have a positive, real-life impact and double-down on our promise to build back fairer from Covid-19.”
There is also a boost to seaports, with new £1m funding to improve access at ports to the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly.
In addition, DfT will work with consumer groups to design more accessible chargepoints for electric vehicles, as the industry steers away from fuel-burning cars.
Alongside local authorities, DfT will work to reduce parking on pavements to declutter streets and free up paths. An announcement on next steps will be made later this year.
Robert Burley, director of campaigns, care and support at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “We regularly hear from people living with muscle-wasting conditions who have had to cancel or cut short days out or don’t consider them at all, because of poor accessibility. The strategy announced today is a step in the right direction to helping tackle the exclusion that so many disabled people face on a daily basis."
The measures are part of the government’s National Disability Strategy, which also includes building more supported housing, providing £300m to improve accessibility in schools and improving access to cultural venues.