Preparing for a last-minute journey

There are times you might want or need to make a last-minute journey using public transport.

You can use many bus, train and underground networks without needing to book help. If you do need help at a station or interchange, many transport companies will let you book assistance on the day. 

Do what you can to get ready and pack what you need.

Plan how to get there

Plan your journey using online tools. You can use:

If you’re travelling somewhere new, use Google Street View to see if you can get to your station or stop. You can also use it to check if the places you’re visiting have accessible entrances, like ramps up to the door.

If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can download a Google map of the area to your device. This allows you to use maps when your internet connection is slow or you cannot get online.

Help using maps

If your vision makes it difficult for you to read maps, the Be My Eyes app connects you to sighted volunteers for visual assistance over the phone. Volunteers can help you choose the best transit route or find your way through a new environment.

Find parking

If you have a Blue Badge, you can park close to most train and coach stations.

Find parking spaces if you have a Blue Badge (GOV.UK).

Check if your journey is accessible

Call or visit the transport company’s website to check if your journey is accessible. Companies often publish accessibility guides in alternative formats.

Some tools, like plan a journey (TfL), allow you to search for routes without escalators and stairs (also known as ‘step-free’) between stations or stops.

Your rights

Transport companies need to offer you the same standard of service as anyone else. In practice, this means that the service may be different.

For example, you might be able to get help on or off a train but only if the station has staff.

Finding accessible transport 

If you’re using a wheelchair

You’ll need to find out if:

  • there’s enough space for your wheelchair
  • you can reach the platform or stop without using stairs or escalators (step-free)
  • the bus or coach has a wheelchair lift or ramp
  • the station or stop have staff that can help you (if you need assistance)

Some step-free stations still have a gap and step between the platform and the train. You can ask staff for assistance if needed.

Search station services and facilities (National Rail) to check if your station is accessible. You can also contact the train company to check whether the station is accessible to you and if the lifts are working.

If you’re using a mobility scooter

You may not be able to use your mobility scooter on public transport unless you can fold it. People who have small scooter models can ride on them on some buses, trains and trams. See the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers for size and weight limits for scooters.

Booking tickets and assistance

Some transport providers let you book tickets and assistance on the day you travel. You do not have to do this but trains may be full or staff may not be available to help.

If you’re travelling by train, you can call your train company to book assistance. National Rail has a list of train companies and their telephone numbers. Your train company should organise help for your whole journey.

If you’re travelling by National Express coach, you can call the Assisted Travel Team on 0371 781 8181.

If you do not need booked assistance, you can buy online or at the station. If you have a smartphone, you can buy tickets through some train company apps or the Trainline app.

Accessible transport and planning journeys

Accessible venues

Use the AccessAble website or app (formerly DisabledGo) to find out if the venue is accessible. If it’s not, you could call ahead and ask if they can organise the help you need, like a portable ramp or a menu in large print.

What to take with you

Think about what you need for every stage of your journey. You may need:

  • the exact fare if you're catching a bus without a ticket or travelcard (check the bus website, if you’re not sure who your local company is, use Traveline)
  • your disabled person’s bus pass or Disabled Persons Railcard (if you have one)
  • your mobile phone charger
  • a Radar key for accessible toilets
  • extra equipment or medication, like respirators or batteries
  • phone numbers for friends, colleagues or transport providers

Have a backup plan

Having a backup plan can be reassuring. Even if things do go wrong, you’ll have options to manage unexpected changes to your journey.

Tell your friends or family where you’re going and how long you’re planning to be away.

Contact the taxi licensing office in your local authority to find accessible taxis. In some areas such as larger cities, licensed taxis have to be wheelchair accessible.

Arrange to stay in a hotel or have someone pick you up if you’re unable to get home using public transport.

If your train is replaced with a rail replacement bus, the train company should provide an accessible alternative, like a free taxi to the station you are planning to travel to.

What to do when something goes wrong

People are usually willing to help with advice or directions. If you need help to get off a train or bus and there are no staff around, ask someone to alert the bus driver or station staff.

Asking for directions or assistance while travelling

If you’re on a train and you have gone past your stop, call the train company (National Rail). They can arrange for someone to help you off at the next stop and organise a taxi to take you back to where you wanted to go.

What to do if something goes wrong on your journey

Live travel and traffic information on the go

Download a live train or bus arrival app, like National Rail Enquiries App or UK Bus Checker. This can help you plan a different route if your train or bus is cancelled.

Visit the Traffic England website for live information about traffic and road conditions.

Traffic information for major roads in Wales is available from Traffic Wales.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 08/05/2019

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