30 August 2019

What you need to know about accessible public transport

Inside a bus

As you get older, driving can become more challenging and even unsafe. However, this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on days out or visiting the shops as public transport has great options for accessibility. It’s important to do a little research on public transport before you make any decisions, much like you would when looking for the best price for stairlifts. Read on to discover some helpful things to know before you embark on your journey.

The benefits of using public transport

Bus stop

Although you may think that travelling to and from your destination is easiest by car, public transport has massively evolved over the last few years, meaning that it’s fast becoming a more cost-effective and faster way to travel.

Using public transport allows you to easily maintain an independent lifestyle well into old age. You can continue to keep active and explore outdoor areas, visit family and friends, shop for yourself and attend any social clubs. It also allows complete flexibility, as you won’t have the hassle of parking the car and continually checking the time for the parking ticket.

Public transport, especially buses, can become a social place. If you have a daily or weekly routine, you’re likely to spot a few familiar faces along the way. It’s important to socialise and meet new people during your retirement age and beyond, and this is an easy way to do so.

If it’s a sunny day outside and you want to visit the local park or shops but they’re slightly too far away to walk, you can easily hop on the bus or train for part of the journey and walk the remaining part. By doing this, you’re keeping up an active lifestyle without doing anything too strenuous.

Another benefit of public transport is that you’re no longer in charge of manoeuvring through heavy traffic or coping with road rage, as you can simply relax and read a book, chat to others or listen to music during your journey. It’s also more environmentally-friendly than cars, as it reduces the use of fuel, carbon dioxide emissions, pollution and congestion.

What are your rights?

If you’re not familiar with using public transport, it may seem daunting at first, however, there are rights under the Equality Act 2010 in place to ensure everyone’s journeys are of the same standard. Under the Act, transport providers have a duty to provide an accessible service, meaning they must provide information and assistance when required. They cannot refuse you because of a disability unless there are valid safety reasons and they must make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers. You can read more about your rights on the different types of public transport here.

How to save money on your tickets

Train seat

Make sure you’re not missing out on saving money off your tickets, as there are a variety of schemes across the country that allow discounts for older people. One being the Senior Railcard, can save you 1/3 off your rail fares throughout the UK if you’re aged 60 or over.

The card will initially cost you £30, which you can quickly cover the cost of with your savings on two to three journeys. Travelling on the national rail will not only take you everywhere, from the UK’s largest cities to beautiful country villages, but you will also have access to a variety of discounts on restaurants, holidays, theatre tickets and more.

If you’re thinking of travelling by bus, be sure to apply for an older person’s bus pass. If you live in England or Wales, you can get a bus pass for free when you reach the female State Pension age, or if you live in London, you can travel free on all transport within London. For further information on what you’re entitled to, make sure to speak to your local council.

Check your local schemes

Across the UK, county councils launch different schemes to help people enjoy accessible public transport. From new discounts to ways to make travel even easier, don’t miss out on local schemes by doing some research. Look on your council’s website, or give them a phone or email, to find out more about what they offer.

For instance, we spoke to Karen Rose, a community transport adviser at Travel Devon, who tells us about some of Devon’s local schemes: “On our website, under ‘access’, we have gathered together information on the various transport services in the county to help people with any specific travel needs to get out and about including info on our Devon Access Wallet which is to help anyone with communication difficulties to make their journeys easier.”

Karen also mentions one of Devon’s community transport services: “The Ring & Ride door-to-door minibus services are all equipped to carry wheelchairs and provide assistance to people with mobility needs. As these are all independently run by voluntary and charitable organisations across Devon. You can contact each scheme for more information.”

Using the bus

London bus

All buses across the UK are required to be accessible, whether they’re single or double-decker. There is at least one space for wheelchair uses, as well as four or more seats labelled as a priority for older people. By law, bus drivers must ask buggies to move out of the wheelchair space.

To plan your bus journey, there are plenty of tools in place. All main bus stops will have a printed bus timetable on display and often a screen displaying the next two or three bus arrivals. To save yourself arriving at the bus stop too early or late, do a bit of research ahead of your journey with using websites such as the ones listed below.

Check with your local bus operator for information on ramps, the size of the wheelchair space and any other accessible features; however, most buses have ramps, non-slip floors, easy to use stop bells and handrails.

Using the train

Train station

If you want some support or need assistance when catching the train, all stations offer someone to help you with your journey. All you need to do is to contact Passenger Assist on freephone 0800 0223720 and let them know what journey you want to make and whether you need help boarding the train, you require a ramp, or you just want someone on hand to help. So that you can get the support you need, make sure to phone 24 hours before your trip.

Train stations have massively improved for accessibility during the last few years, but it’s worth checking National Rail’s Access Map to find out whether the station has step-free access, lifts and accessible toilets. You can book your tickets ahead of time easily on websites including Trainline,

Trainpal, National Rail or Great Western Railway.

Top tips for using public transport

Train station

Although all journeys are different, there are a few key things to remember before setting off. First, as well as arranging any assistance you may need a day before your journey, it’s a good idea to book any trains tickets in advance, as you’re likely to secure a much cheaper ticket price.

Another top tip is to leave plenty of time to catch your train or bus comfortably. Public transport can less stressful than driving unless you’re rushing and worried about missing your train or bus, so aim to arrive at a station at least 5-10 minutes before your transports expected.

Remember to bring any travel cards, railcard, tickets and a form of ID on your journey. Train conductors will ask to see any cards that have allowed you a discounted price and may fine you if you haven’t got them to hand.

A tip to make your journey more comfortable is to wear layers. Not all modes of transport will have working heaters or air conditioning, so be prepared to adjust to different temperatures. As well as this, try to pack a large bottle of water to keep you hydrated on your journey.

As well as making your home more accessible, with home stairlifts, be sure to explore new places and attend exciting days out by using accessible public transport.