A new database that should make it easier for disabled and older people who want to use their mobility scooters on public transport is “a step in the right direction”, according to a leading user-led organisation.
The database was set up as a result of a report on using mobility scooters on public transport, commissioned by the Department for Transport from Rica, which carries out consumer research for disabled and older people.
The Rica database provides details of which “type two” scooter models can be used on trains and on accessible, low-floor buses.
If a bus company has signed up to a national scheme that was launched in 2011 by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), a disabled person can apply for a free permit that shows the driver their scooter has been approved and that they have been trained in how to board and alight safely from the bus.
Transport for London has its own scheme, which also covers other mobility aids, but its drivers should accept permits issued by those companies that have signed up to the national scheme.
Helen Dolphin, director of policy and campaigns for Disabled Motoring UK, said the database was “a step in the right direction”, but that she was still concerned with how complicated it was to secure permission to board a bus, while some companies had joined the scheme and others had not.
She said: “It is quite confusing. First you identify your scooter, and then you identify your bus. It is putting quite a lot of onus on the disabled person. And then you might get a bus driver who doesn’t know the rules.”
The database announcement follows a consultation – launched in 2010 by the previous government – which looked at possible modernising reforms to the law on mobility vehicles.
The Rica report also calls for more publicity about the permit schemes, for more research into how scooter-users can safely board and travel on trains, and for those train operating companies that do not yet run their own permit schemes to consider doing so.
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport minister, said: “Disabled people need good quality information to effectively plan their journeys.
“Any steps that can be taken to end the lottery of not knowing what you can take and where is to be welcomed.”
He added: ”This report also identifies a number of other actions, which we will examine carefully with transport operators and decide how they can be taken forward.”
CPT said the Rica research would be a “useful aid” to its scheme.
David Mapp, commercial director of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: “Operators welcome the new database, which will help disabled people to take advantage of the rail network by providing greater clarity on which scooters can be taken on trains.”