There are growing calls for public transport companies to do more to accommodate people who rely upon mobility scooters to get around.
The push for more modes of public transport to be opened up to mobility scooter users is being led by politicians in Scotland where a fierce row has erupted over a ban on the vehicles by the company which runs Edinburgh’s tram and bus systems.
The SNP Scottish Parliament member for Edinburgh Southern, Jim Eadie, has claimed that Transport for Edinburgh has said that “operational circumstances” means that it cannot allow scooters on its trams because of the sheer number of passengers they carry, the difficulty in manoeuvring scooters to get on and off a crowded bus or tram and the risk that other public transport users might be injured in an accident..
Mr Eadie says that public transport must be open to everybody and has demanded that Transport of Edinburgh urgently reviews its rules.
The ban was introduced in 2014 – just before the new tram system in the city was up and running. The ruling was immediately condemned by campaigners for disabled people who said that it was a blatant piece of discrimination.
Mr Eadie said:
“Given we are living in 2015, it is about time that transport within Edinburgh was accessible for all.
“I will continue to push Transport for Edinburgh vigorously to ensure they make the policy change, which is vital to ensuring everyone within our community can go about their daily lives without having the unnecessary problem of struggling getting from A to B.
“The vast majority of people in Edinburgh rely on both the tram and bus networks for commuting to and from work, socialising or shopping. It is not right in today’s society that some in our community are being excluded from using either buses or trams.
“Let’s not forget that these methods are Edinburgh’s two main transport networks and they should allow access for all and not be selective.”
Mr Eadie has written to Transport for Edinburgh demanding that it reviews its regulations. He has requested a meeting with chief executive Ian Craig.
Transport for Edinburgh has denied that it discriminates against disabled users and says that it is working hard to open up its services to all users.
Mr Craig added: “We’re currently trialling bicycle access on our trams and once that’s complete we’ll look at options open to us around mobility scooter access.
“Our accessibility is presently very good but if we can make it better then of course we’ll do what we can to ensure that everyone who wants to travel with us has the best experience possible.”
Each company sets its own rules for carrying scooters so check with them before you attempt to travel. Full details are given in each company’s Making rail accessible – helping older and disabled passengers DPPP document, online or ask their accessibility assistance phone line. Ensure that all the stations you wish to use have step-free access.
Many companies will carry non-folded mobility scooters, generally the smaller, lighter and more manoeuvrable types. Even so, the company may not let you take them on all trains or all routes.
The issues in Edinburgh have highlighted the discrepancies across the UK when it comes to taking mobility scooters onto different modes of public transport.
While most train train companies will allow certain types of scooter on board, some will only do so if you hold a scooter permit issued by them. Other train operators will carry a scooter if it is folded down and placed in the luggage rack. Most train companies will not allow their staff to help users lift scooters on or off trains.
Most operating companies apply the same same rules on maximum weight and size as they do for wheelchairs: scooters must not be longer than 120cm, not wider than 70cm and with a total combined weight that must not exceed 300kg for scooter and rider. Some train ramps are only able to carry 230kg.
In many cases train companies expect scooter users to reserve a space to accommodate the scooter - usually with at least 24 hours’ notice. Some train companies may force users to sit in a fixed seat while on the train.
By Help Mobility Team