Coronavirus: information and updates

Transport for disabled people

You can travel on many buses, trains, taxis and underground networks without needing to book a ticket or arrange help in advance.

All public transport providers must provide an accessible service. In practice, you may not be able to use their service at all times or without a staff member to help you.

You have different rights depending on whether you’re on a train, taxi, bus or coach. This can be confusing and feel unfair.

Find out more about your rights on transport if you’re disabled (GOV.UK)

Face masks on public transport

The NHS recommends you wear a face covering in crowded places like public transport to protect others.

But you do not need to prove that you cannot wear a mask.

If you’re worried about what other people might say or do, you could try getting a sunflower lanyard. This tells others that you have an invisible condition or impairment.

Sunflower lanyard (Hidden Disabilities)

Planning your journey

Planning your journey can help make sure it’s accessible to you. This could include:

  • how to get to your station or stop

  • contacting the company to check that your transport is accessible

  • checking that the station or stop has the equipment you need, like ramps or accessible toilets

  • booking help from transport staff

Many transport providers publish accessibility information and guides in alternative formats, like Braille or large print. You may find these by looking for ‘accessibility’ on their website or in the ‘help’ section. Look online or contact them to find out more.

To help you plan your journey, you could use:

Many tools allow you to choose:

  • a route without escalators and stairs, also known as ‘step-free’

  • which type of transport you want

Step-free routes can take longer.

Travel apps

There are travel apps that can give you some useful updates, but these are not specific to disabled travellers.

Train and bus companies often have their own mobile apps. These apps should be accessible, but not all of them are.

Citymapper and Google Maps both have ‘commute’ options. They allow you to set up a planned journey, and tell you if there are changes or delays. AA maps can give you updates on traffic in your area.

If you use Google Maps, you may need to turn on extra tracking. This could use up your phone’s battery more quickly. Downloading information over Wi-Fi may mean that you use less data.

Rail

Find out what facilities your train company provides (National Rail)

Companies might replace your train with an older train if it’s being cleaned or repaired. If the replacement is not accessible to you, train operators have a duty to get you to your destination. This can involve booking you on another train service or paying for a taxi.

Station accessibility

Check station accessibility before you travel.

Some step-free stations may have a gap between the platform and the train.

Check station accessibility (National Rail)

Some smaller stations have a dedicated helpline for booked assistance, especially if the station is not always staffed. Search for:

National Rail stations

National Rail interactive access map

Take the company’s contact details with you

Make sure you have the train company’s contact details with you so you can notify them of problems with your journey. Tell a friend or colleague about your plans so they can also tell the train company.

You can also call the train company or station on the day to check whether the station is accessible to you and if the lifts are working.

If you need help

You can get help to:

  • book tickets and make reservations

  • get around the station

  • get on and off the train

You can book assistance online or by calling the train company. Most train companies ask for 24 hours’ notice.

Book assistance (Passenger Assist)

You do not need a Disabled Persons Railcard to use this service. 

Tell staff you’ve booked assistance

Arrive at the station at least 20 minutes early and tell station staff you have booked assistance. This gives them time to check help is in place and make other arrangements if necessary.

If you cannot find a member of staff, go to the ticket office or use the help points on platforms. Some large mainline stations have Network Rail Assistance Offices where you can find assistance staff. Check with the rail company about what’s available.

If you’re at an unstaffed station and there are no help points or an assistance helpline, you could try contacting the train company or National Rail Enquiries on 03457 48 49 50.

Asking staff for help on public transport

Your rights

Your right to travel by train is protected by the train company’s Disabled People’s Protection Policy (DPPP).

Under the DPPP, train companies must:

  • provide assistance like helping you board a train if you’re using a wheelchair

  • help you at an unstaffed station if you’ve booked in advance

  • organise an alternative, accessible service if you cannot use a rail service, like a rail replacement bus

  • get you to the next accessible station if you cannot access a station

Look at the policy for the train company you are using.

Wheelchairs and mobility scooters

On mainline (intercity, suburban and cross-country) trains, you may need to reserve a space for your wheelchair.

If your wheelchair is bigger than the standard size (700 mm wide by 1200 mm long), you’ll need to check if your wheelchair can fit on the train.

Check if your wheelchair can fit on the train (National Rail)

Train companies have different policies about using mobility scooters. You can carry a folded-up scooter onto the train as luggage. If you want to take a larger scooter, contact the train company to find out if they can carry them.

Underground networks

Some underground stations are more accessible than others.

London Underground and London Docklands Light Railway (DLR)

Less than a third of tube stations have step-free access.

Download a Transport for London step-free tube guide (PDF)

This details which tube and DLR stations:

  • are step-free

  • have manual boarding ramps

It also shows how large the gaps are between the station and the platform.

You can also check the standard tube map for stations with a:

  • blue wheelchair symbol for step-free access

  • white wheelchair symbol for step-free access and no gaps between the train and the platform

  • an open circle symbol for a step-free interchange

You do not have to book assistance on the TfL network. They operate a ‘turn-up-and-go’ service. This means you can ask staff at the station to help you or get support through a help point.

Help from staff (Transport for London)

If the lifts are out of use, ask a member of staff for an alternative route or if there’s a service lift you can use.

All DLR stations have lift or ramp access to the platforms and level access to trains. Many DLR stations do not have staff outside peak times. There should be a Passenger Service Agent on every train. You can also look for help points on the platform to speak with a member of staff.

Tyne and Wear Metro

All stations are accessible through lifts, ramps or level access. Many stations do not have staff but you can book assistance or speak with someone using a help point. You cannot take a powered mobility scooter on the train.

Merseyrail

Merseyrail’s station accessibility map shows which stations have step-free access. You can also find out the size of the gap between the train and the platform at each station.

Many stations do not have staff but you can book help if you need it. If you want to travel from an unstaffed station, you can call for assistance using the help button on each platform.

Taxis and minicabs

By law, taxi drivers must:

  • stop and pick you up

  • enable you to travel in your wheelchair if they’re driving a wheelchair accessible vehicle (most black cabs)

  • take your assistance dog and, if they refuse, you can ask to see a medical exemption certificate showing why

  • help you get in and out of the vehicle without running the meter

  • not charge you extra for your journey or your luggage

  • help you with any luggage you have, including your wheelchair

Contact the taxi licensing office in your local authority to find accessible taxis.

In some areas such as larger cities, licensed taxis must be wheelchair accessible.

You can book a licensed black cab through the Gett app.

Licensed minicabs are usually too small to take a powered or unfolded wheelchair. Some minicab companies, like Uber, let you select a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

Buses and coaches

In most towns and cities, buses have ramps and wheelchair spaces. Check with your local bus company.

You can take some smaller mobility scooters on low-floor buses.

REACT is a talking sign system that gives real-time information via electronic display boards. Contact your local bus company to see if it’s available on your route.

Some coach companies operate accessible coaches, including:

Check if the coach station is accessible and book help if you need it.

Help to get on or off

The law says bus and coach drivers must give reasonable assistance to disabled people. This does not mean physically lifting passengers or heavy mobility equipment.

You can ask the bus driver to:

  • help you get up the ramp on the bus if the gradient is too steep
  • help you with bags or luggage
  • wait until you’re seated before driving

Asking staff for help on public transport

If you need help to get on and off a coach, ask for this when you book your ticket.

Making a complaint

Staff should treat you respectfully. If they do not, or they refuse to assist you, it’s important to complain.

Complaining about public transport

Free and discounted travel

Help with the cost of your travel can make transport more accessible. Financial support can include:

There may be concessions for local transport, such as trams and ferries in your area.

Contact your local authority (GOV.UK)

Driving

If planning journeys on public transport is difficult for you, you could think about using the Motability Scheme to pay for the costs of leasing a car, scooter or powered wheelchair.

You are eligible to join the Motability Scheme if you’ve been awarded either the:

  • higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for 12 months or more
  • the enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for 12 months or more

To join the scheme, you will need to pay using the components of these benefits. The scheme pays for insurance, breakdown cover and vehicle tax. The scheme can pay for some driving lessons. It does not pay for fuel.

Driving and Motability

Last reviewed by Scope on: 28/04/2022

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