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Disabled Access

Volume 403: debated on Monday 14 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made since 1997 in improving disabled access to public transport; and if he will make a statement.[109208]

Regulations have been made under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). These set standards of access for disabled people, which have applied to all new trains (since the end of 1998), and all new buses and coaches used on local and scheduled service with a capacity of more than 22 passengers (since the end of 2000). Proposals for regulations applying to taxis will be brought forward later this year. Transport infrastructure is covered by Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act which requires the removal of policies or practices that discriminate and, from 2004, the removal of physical barriers to access.In addition we have accepted the recommendations on transport made by the Disability Rights Task Force. These include extending some of the requirements of Part III of the DDA to cover vehicles, setting an end date by which all trains in service must be accessible and taking powers to introduce regulations to apply to the refurbishment of trains. We have just completed consultation on the first of these sets of proposals and will shortly publish a consultation paper on the second.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions he has had with rail companies on improving disabled access to (a) trains and (b) train stations; what progress has been made; and what assistance the Government have provided for these measures since 1997. [109209]

My Department is in regular contact with rail companies to encourage best practice on access to trains and stations and to offer advice on compliance with the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (RVAR) which requires all new trains to be accessible to disabled people.In addition, the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) published its Code of Practice on Train and Station Services for Disabled Passengers which covers access to trains and stations. Under the code the SRA has asked passenger train and station operators to review their Disabled People's Protection Policy to ensure that there is a commitment to accessibility wherever new work or a refurbishment takes place. As part of the review train operating companies will be identifying the current levels of accessibility at their stations and will be detailing what short term solutions have been identified to provide an alternative means of using the train service where physical barriers preclude this.