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Why it makes sense to invest in accessible and inclusive transport

Positive steps are being taken in Wales to put people at the heart of planning and delivering a transport system that is once again a true public service, writes Gemma Lelliott

Gemma Lelliott
15 February 2023
Gemma Lelliott
Gemma Lelliott

 

Transport is a social justice issue – it is about much more than just getting from A to B. Here at Community Transport Association (CTA), we take a holistic view of the ways that transport – or the lack of it – can impact on all aspects of our lives. Supporting more people to switch to sustainable transport modes has never been so important. 

Public and community transport have the power to be a great enabler, empowering people to live the lives they want without being forced to rely on a car. 

But, currently, the lack of inclusive and accessible transport is disabling people every day. If you’re on a low income, are older, are disabled, live in a rural area, need to make multi-stop journeys or travel at ‘non-core’ times, or have caring responsibilities, the public transport system has not been designed for you.

Falling through the cracks

Having specialised in access and inclusion since 2010, I’ve worked alongside a huge number of people who have been negatively impacted by transport planning decisions. People like Mark, a young man who is blind and has a learning disability, who wants to go out to gigs with his friends. 

Beth, meanwhile, was made redundant due to the pandemic and has struggled to find a new job because she doesn’t have a car. 

Then there’s Andrew, an older man who lost his sight due to macular degeneration, who before the first lockdown hit hadn’t left his house for more than 18 months. 

As you can imagine, without an integrated, accessible transport system, people like Mark, Beth and Andrew could easily fall through the cracks. As we navigate a new reality in the wake of Covid-19, it has never been so important to safeguard and develop transport solutions that truly work for the communities we serve. 

And with the opportunities created by the Welsh Government through Llwybr Newydd and Bws Cymru, we have never been better placed to deliver an effective, more affordable, more inclusive, and more integrated local passenger transport network. We now have the opportunity to meet the needs of all passengers and make public transport the first and best choice for making a journey. 

If we are serious about levelling up through shared mobility, we need a transport system that works for every part of a person’s life. We are not just parts of an economic system, we are unique individuals with a huge variety of needs and interests – our transport services need to reflect and enable that.

Building a viable network

If we want to reshape travel habits, we need to see every prospective passenger as someone of value. Whatever the reasons for your journey, your mobility support needs, your preferred journey time, or your income bracket, we all need to see the public and community transport network as a viable and accessible option, even if it is only for some of the journeys we make.

The truth is though that at the moment, huge numbers of people are still excluded. I’ve stood at a bus stop and watched buses drive past without stopping because the person I was with was a wheelchair user. 

I’ve seen station staff abuse passengers who have the audacity to turn up at a station without pre-booking assistance for their journey. I have helped people navigate incomprehensible timetables, on paper and via websites that have clearly never been run past someone who uses assistive tech. And that’s just in the places where transport is available. For so many people, the public transport network is not a viable option for them, because it’s either not there, not affordable, or not accessible.

As a nation, Wales is saying ‘no more’. We are working together, collaboratively and positively, to put people at the heart of planning and delivering a transport system that will once again be a true public service. 

All of us recognise that it isn’t going to be easy, especially looking down the barrel of a cost of living crisis and yet more austerity to come. But, if anything, these pressures make taking this action even more important. If we want a transport network that not only serves us now, but also preserves the wellbeing of future generations, there is no time to lose.

Helping communities thrive

It’s a really exciting time for the transport sector in Wales, and at CTA we have a clear vision of what we want to be part of. We want to see sustainable funding going into public and community transport which also considers how active travel can be integrated for those able to use it. 

We need a decarbonised fleet, which is connected with communities who own the energy that powers the vehicles, and are run by operators who collaborate and share their learning and expertise. 

CTA wants members of the community to shape the services they use, so those services can adapt and evolve to ensure they carry on meeting the needs of local people. And we are calling for recognition from across the public sector that accessible transport can be a key enabler for success, and a commitment to work together to deliver it.

Accessible, inclusive and integrated transport systems are the gateway infrastructure of vibrant and thriving communities, and they are key to tackling both the climate emergency and the cost of living crisis. 

To talk about how CTA and the community transport sector can help you reshape travel planning and level up through shared mobility, get in touch at gemma@ctauk.org

Gemma Lelliot is director for Wales at Community Transport Association (CTA)

Community Transport Association (CTA) is the national charity that represents and supports providers of community transport - thousands of local charities and community groups in all parts of the UK that provide transport services which fulfil a social purpose and community benefit.

Our vision is of a world where people can shape and create their own accessible and inclusive transport solutions and our mission is to achieve this through championing accessible and inclusive transport, connecting people and ideas, and by strengthening our members and raising standards.

We do this by contributing to the formation of public policy that affects our sector and their service users and showing how better outcomes are achieved for people and communities when they have access to community transport.  We create partnerships with like-minded organisations across all sectors; manage a national programme of quality assured education and training; provide comprehensive advice and guidance to those delivering community transport; and we take every opportunity to champion the vital and indispensable work that our members do.  

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