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Transport: Mobility Scooters

Volume 723: debated on Wednesday 12 January 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish the guidance on the dimensions and weight of mobility scooters suitable for use on public transport, as recommended in the Department for Transport’s 2006 report, Carriage of Mobility Scooters on Public Transport—Feasibility Study.

My Lords, we are currently exploring options around the carriage of scooters on public transport and what guidance will cover, and discussing these issues with relevant parties. We will announce in due course when guidance will be made available. Any decision made on scooters being carried on public transport will aim to strike a balance between the needs of the user to maintain independence and the operating constraints of the industry.

I thank the Minister for that reply. He will be aware of the confusion and shock caused by the sudden changes that bus operators made last year. I should declare an interest: I have a family member who uses a mobility scooter. Can the Minister tell us whether there is any move, or whether his department will move, towards setting standards for these scooters so that all bus operators—and I am particularly interested in buses but the point applies to all transport—will know whether a certain scooter complies? Manufacturers also should be made aware of the aim of meeting that international requirement. Will he particularly bear this in mind with the upcoming Olympics, as many of the people who will be coming over for the Olympic and Paralympic Games may well use this type of mobility scooter.

My noble friend makes an extremely good point. We are considering the feasibility of a number of options for more consistency on the carriage of mobility scooters on public transport, and we will make an announcement when a decision has been taken. In reviewing the options for a uniform policy on the carriage of scooters on public transport we have in mind the timetable for developing an accessible transport strategy for the Olympics. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has established a working group to develop arrangements for the renting of mobility scooters for the Games. The department will be working with LOCOG on the transportability issue.

My Lords, what consideration can the Minister give to the current rules on the number of wheelchair users who can travel on London’s buses, specifically—bearing in mind the increased number of spectators and athletes—during the Olympics and Paralympics? Under the current rules, only one wheelchair user is allowed to travel on a bus. As my husband is an occasional wheelchair user, if he chooses to use it, we are not allowed to travel together.

My Lords, the noble Baroness makes an important point. A considerable amount of money has been spent on ensuring that all buses are wheelchair accessible, but there will obviously be a limit to how many wheelchairs—probably only one—can be accommodated at any one time. I will discuss the issue with my officials after the debate.

Will the noble Lord acknowledge that the people who have to deal with this problem—bus drivers, bus conductors and train staff—need to know whether or not a mobility scooter can be carried, as there are some very big ones that cannot be carried? Can he please ensure that scooters are clearly marked in some way to make sure that they can go on public transport?

My noble friend makes an extremely good point. We are considering the feasibility of a passport and kitemarking scheme, as well as other options, and will make an announcement when a decision has been made.

My Lords, the Minister will recognise the progress that we have made in recent years in terms of the availability of public transport to users of wheelchairs and other means of locomotion. However, does he appreciate that we are anxious that this looks as if it is grinding to a halt, in particular against the background of new equipment, some of which is heavier than we have been used to in the past? Does he recognise that normal users of bus and train services take on very commodious vehicles such as pushchairs which are of huge size, and therefore it ill behoves us to let down those who are disabled?

My Lords, the noble Lord touched on the weight of wheelchairs. One issue is that modern class 3 mobility scooters that can be used on a public road are so heavy that they could cause a problem with access ramps. That is why we need to work to agree standards covering which mobility scooters can go on which modes of public transport.

My Lords, will the Minister communicate with various disabled organisations so that they know what vehicles they should have—otherwise they could be disappointed and could waste money buying the wrong scooter?

My Lords, in this process it is absolutely essential that the Government communicate with all stakeholders. We need to communicate with the manufacturers to make sure that we do not develop a standard that is unique to the UK, in which case we would not be able to get the benefits of volume of manufacture. Obviously we need to communicate with the users of mobility scooters and the operators of the transport system. If we miss out any one of those three groups, we will fail.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, that great progress had been made were not quite correct? These recommendations were designed to be published in 2006, but they never have been. That is what I am asking for in this Question.

My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct, but we are looking towards the future and want to improve the independence of disabled people by making sure that they can make maximum use of the available equipment.

My Lords, we were most encouraged yesterday when the Minister said from the Dispatch Box, in the context of the Public Bodies Bill, that the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee would be continued at least until the Olympics. However, given what the Minister said today in respect of the need to communicate with stakeholders, and in particular the users of public transport, is there not a case for retaining this important body?

My Lords, I am not briefed on that issue, but I am sure that noble Lords had great opportunity during discussion of the Public Bodies Bill to debate it in detail.