The Role of Local Government in Shaping Accessible Transport

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE DL recently chaired the spring meeting of the Accessible Transport Policy Commission on the role of local government in shaping accessible transport.

The meeting in Parliament brought together local government leaders, disabled people, and transport professionals to examine the important role that local and regional policymakers have in making transport systems more accessible.

In addition, the meeting launched the ‘Closing the Transport Accessibility Gap Charter’, which calls for local and regional political leaders to eliminate barriers to travel for disabled people. It commits Mayors and Councillors to:

  • Appoint a disabled people’s champion to key transport public decision-making bodies.
  • Support local transport authorities and operators to set up accessibility panels composed of disabled people and organisations.
  • Promote community transport services and accessible public transport.
  • Make our streets accessible, inclusive, and safe for disabled people.

Last week, Clive Gilbert, Policy Connect’s Head of Accessible Transport, met Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, as he became the first metro mayor to sign the Charter.

During the meeting, speakers remarked on how the Charter can drive local government leaders around the UK to take more rapid and systematic action to eliminate barriers to independent transport for disabled people.

Several examples were highlighted of authorities including accessibility within wider transport and urban management plans to ensure that new infrastructure is accessible from day one. It was equally noted how siloed funding streams and decision-making structures can undermine good practice.

Adopting the social model of disability was also viewed as crucial for addressing systematic barriers in transportation and beyond, with participants detailing how challenges disabled people experience on the transport system are interconnected with barriers in other areas of society.

As well as addressing the needs of people with visible disabilities, it was noted that the transport system must be accessible for people with hidden disabilities and learning disabilities. This means that the transport sector must ensure that people with lived experience of disability contribute to discussions and decisions.

Finally, speakers discussed how transport providers can share in the social and economic benefits of making transport accessible by producing service contracts that ensure operators can share in the gains associated with improving disabled people’s lives.

The session featured insights from:

  • Clive Gilbert, Head of Accessible Transport, Policy Connect.
  • Vernon Everitt, Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
  • Seb Dance, Greater London Authority and Transport for London.
  • Tim Bellamy, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority.
  • Helen Ellerton, West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
  • Ben Brittain, West Midlands Combined Authority.
  • Natasha Healey, WSP.

For more information on the Accessible Transport Policy Commission and the Accessible Transport Charter, please contact clive.gilbert [at] (clive[dot]gilbert[at]policyconnect[dot]org[dot]uk).

The Accessible Transport Policy Commission is part of the National Centre for Accessible Transport (ncat) and works to remove barriers to transport for disabled people across the UK.