Opinion: ‘Public transport in Peterborough could be improved’

The PT’s Peterborough Unlimited campaign is highlighting issues faced by the disabled community in Peterborough. Leading campaigner Julie Fernandez is writing a regular column as part of that campaign...

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 9th October 2021, 12:15 pm
Campaigner Julie Fernandez.
Campaigner Julie Fernandez.

Recently the PT wrote an article about the lack of wheelchair accessible taxis and private hire vehicles in the city, so I thought it might be worth writing about the issues we face as disabled people regarding public transport accessibility.

Most buses should have a ramp or lift.

From my personal experience and from the many disabled people I speak to, we find that when we are in the bus queue the driver will often say that the lift/ramp is not working.

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When wheelchair users find they can get on the bus the wheelchair accessible space is often taken up by prams. The drivers are frequently uncomfortable in getting involved with asking the person who owns the pram to move it, partly because they don’t have the time and partly because it then leads on to difficult conversations.

Buses have routes with timescales so when a disabled person who needs the lift/ramp wants access to the bus this takes time. If the lift/ramp is really not working, then why are the bus companies not making sure they are fixed properly. Maybe there needs to be a re-think of the design of the bus, if parents with prams find having the space to put their pram in useful then why not make more space for both?

Taxis are also difficult to get access to, not everyone needs a wheelchair-friendly vehicle, but it takes time for a disabled person to get into and out of the vehicle and this all takes up time that the driver could be getting on with another job. Disabled people who have a guide/assistance dog find it difficult to find a taxi that will allow the dog in their vehicle. If the driver is allergic, then they have a right to say no as long as they have the paperwork to back that up, but in most circumstances the driver will not allow it. These dogs are well trained and will not do their business in the taxi.

Train journeys are difficult because carriages are often old, and the ramp access needed is dependent on the staff offering the support. Peterborough station has great staff who are helpful, but this is often not the case. In order to book assistance, you need to give 24 hours’ notice through the disability support line, and you don’t always know when you might need to travel. There are limited wheelchair spaces on trains, and these are often used by parents who have prams.

The disabled toilets are notorious for not working.

What is obvious here is two things, firstly there needs to be a re-think in terms of design of the vehicle to accommodate everyone in society and the second that the staff/drivers need to have regular disability equality training to allow them to offer the right support to those with disabilities who wish to use public transport.

Your thoughts and opinions on the subject of disability and your experiences mean a lot to me so please do contact me by email on [email protected] to let me know what you think of our campaign and what is important to you.

If you have any other suggestions that our campaign should raise, please don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts.