Despite the difficulties experienced by some mobility scooter users while trying to use the nations network train services, other public transport sectors are looking to improve their service for passengers with disabilities.
For the first time ever, mobility scooter users are going to be able to travel aboard buses and trams as part of a new trial being introduced by transport bosses.
Disability organisations and charities have long been campaigning for a change to allow disabled people to have equal rights regarding the use of public transport. Fortunately, Transport for Edinburgh listened to the concerns being voiced, and are introducing a trial on not only on their bus services, but also on their trams too.
Scooters not allowed
Up until now, mobility scooters have not been allowed on board due to the obvious challenges of manoeuvring them on and off vehicles. The potential risk of accidents and injury to fellow travellers was too great to be allowed, especially during peak times with crowded vehicles.
Disability campaigners were outraged to learn that scooters were not to be allowed on the city’s new tram system when they first started running last year. They called the decision ‘outright discrimination’, and was deemed as humiliating for the city’s many scooter users.
However, the concerns of disabled passengers were raised at the Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams board meeting, held in July this year. It was agreed that the company will facilitate a trial to include both the bus and tram service, a paper is now being drawn up, and the implementation of the trial will be delegated by the respective transport boards.
Issues to overcome
Obviously, the health and safety concerns of all passengers must be considered, and Edinburgh Trams are currently discussing the technical issues with vehicle manufacturers and infrastructure engineers, in partnership with the city council.
Lothian Buses are also paying close attention to the Confederation of Passenger Transport guidelines regarding the carriage of mobility scooters aboard buses, and are taking into consideration any difficulties that scooter users face while using public transport services in general.
Campaigners may be glad that transport bosses are taking their issues seriously, but if the trial proves successful, it could mean a ground-breaking move has been taken for the rights of disabled passengers in other parts of the country too.
In an ideal world, no disabled person should be discriminated against while assessing public transport services. If this trial proves successful, it could mean the adoption of new industry standard guidelines for catering for disabled mobility scooter users.
Logistically, it is anticipated that allowing mobility scooters aboard trams will prove easier that for buses. There is more space available aboard trams that can allow for greater manoeuvrability.
Further details of the trial will be discussed at a meeting scheduled for October. Transport bosses are keen to improve their transport provision across all of their services, but they are aware that buses and trams are very different in structure, so careful consideration will be given to the practicalities of each form of transport when drawing up a final plan.
Other issues that will need to be considered is for mobility scooter access during peak commuting times where buses and trams may already be full to capacity. Mobility scooters come in a wide range of sizes, so it will be difficult to cater for every type of scooter on buses that are already packed with passengers.
Space allocation for mobility scooters aboard both trams and buses is also another tricky area. We have to remember that a mobility scooter user wanting to travel into the city to go shopping will undoubtedly need to return home carrying any number of shopping bags, which can add to the difficulty of accessibility, and for passengers to easily move past scooters that are positioned near the door.
There may also be additional issues with mobility scooter users with limited ability to manoeuvre safely on and off public transport using a confined allocated space.
There may also be concerns voiced by non disabled passengers who may be worried that allowing extra time for mobility scooters to use the services will result in the service slowing down. This could impact negatively on traffic congestion, as well as potentially causing passengers to be late for work, and possibly miss other timed appointments.
There could also be difficulties with deciding who gets priority for an allocated space when there is both a wheelchair user and a mobility scooter user vying for the same spot.
Most buses already in operation across the city have provision for wheelchair users. However the access ramps used by wheelchair users will probably not be sufficient for use by anyone driving a mobility scooter on board. There is a weight restriction on access ramps, and it is thought that an average mobility scooter would already be close to, if not over the maximum weight allowance without the added weight of the scooter user.
Wheelchair allocated spaces on public transport would also be considered as too small to accommodate the much large size of mobility scooters aboard buses and trams, so this will also need to be addressed before the trial begins.