Weekly Poll – COVID-19: Transport Affordability and Access to Services (Week Beginning 19 October 2020)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 19 October 2020, we asked a question about transport affordability and access to services, a topic suggested by the Community Transport Association (CTA).

Results

Question 1. Have changes to transport, such as altered timetables, reduced capacity and limiting car sharing, affected your ability to access key services? 

  • YES – 95% (241 respondents)
  • NO – 5% (12 respondents)

Question 2. Has the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic made it more difficult to afford transport? 

  • YES – 93% (236 respondents)
  • NO – 7% (17 respondents)

Comments

Respondents identified the following main themes and key concerns.  We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Timetables and Capacity

Altered timetables and reduced capacity, particularly on buses, has made it difficult for disabled people to access key services. Respondents were left frustrated by the lack of information and consultation with local residents.

“Buses are unreliable and not accessible. There have been many timetable changes without any warning and on many occasions, buses just don’t turn up.”

“Altered bus times have made it tricky doing the school run or getting to the doctors on time, resulting in lots of waiting around.”

“Bus services in Glasgow are a joke. Bus timetables have been changed and buses do not run to time or turn up. Now bus stops have been moved and all without consultation of any type of communication to let people know what’s happening. Potluck trying to use buses!”

“Changed timetables and reduced capacity, with priority being on tourist traffic over the past few months is blatant discrimination against local residents and disabled people.”

Community Transport

Whilst many disabled people have struggled to access key services via public transport, a large portion of respondents praised community transport providers for continuing to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The community transport in Kingussie have been my saviours. Bus services have changed or been withdrawn with no notice, but the community transport is reliable.”

“No transport is reliable except for community transport. Even the ambulance service has cancelled my transport at short notice and left me stressed at missing a hospital appointment.”

“Highland areas of Scotland have been more or less cut off with the exception of community transport.”

“Why can’t community transport schemes operate commercially even on a non-profit basis? They provide a far better service than bus operators and the section 19 and 22 permits don’t give enough flexibility.”

“Community transport has been a lifeline service. We need to ensure it’s sustainable and recognised for the critical part in plays in the transport industry.”

“I use community transport in Lanarkshire and I am grateful as the bus changes would make it impossible.”

“The only safe and reliable transport provider is community transport.”

Respondents praised their local community transport providers for delivering vital support.

“Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport scheme is well established in our area and they provide and excellent service. Always helpful and reliable and all the volunteer drivers are great and can’t do enough to help. A true door to door service. The Government should be giving more funding to these community schemes and less to the big bus service operators who don’t respond to community needs.”

“Poor public transport, but Berwickshire Wheels Community Transport in the Scottish Borders fill the gap. They have even been delivering food during COVID-19 as people can’t get to shops or deliveries.”

“The Portlethen Community transport drivers do a great job and are volunteers. Bus services are no help trying to get to hospitals, but the volunteer drivers make sure we get there.”

“The Buchan Community Transport scheme has helped me and my wife to get to our hospital appointments and to local community groups before they were closed for lockdown.”

Medical Appointments 

Some respondents found it difficult to access medical appointments using the patient transport service offered by the Scottish Ambulance Service. Arranging alternative means of transport can be challenging due to altered timetables and reduced capacity on public transport. Restrictions on car sharing means that it may not be possible to arrange for a friend or family member to provide transport.

“I had to cancel a medical appointment that had already been delayed because of COVID-19. The ambulance transport said they were full and couldn’t take me even though I passed the assessment to get transport.”

“Ambulance service keep telling me they don’t have enough capacity to transport me but won’t signpost me to who can. Ambulance service keep asking me if I have a family member or friend that can take me to hospital, and I have to explain that would mean car sharing. Nobody there to actually help.”

“I found it hard to get to my medical appointment and the ambulance service are not any help. Thankfully, I have had less than usual, but it’s still a costly journey as friends can’t help and the ambulance service keep saying they have no seats available.”

“The restrictions on car share has left me housebound.”

“I now can’t get a lift from friends or family. Result: more weeks/months of isolation.”

Blue Badge Spaces

Disabled people are concerned by the removal and relocation of parking bays in town centres. These measures have been implemented as part of the Spaces for People programme, to increase the width of pavements to make it easier for pedestrians to stay a safe distance apart. However, many Blue Badge holders can no longer access spaces in town centres, which may restrict access to essential goods and services.

“The removal of blue badge parking in Glasgow has meant I can no longer take my car to work without additional and unaffordable costs. It’s really not worth my while working financially but it’s the only thing that keeps my self-respect.”

“I now can’t get parked close enough to my work because blue badge parking has been suspended.”

“No car sharing, removal of blue badge parking = impossible to get to work.”

“Disabled parking spaces need to be reinstated.”

Affordability

The vast majority of respondents (93%) believed that the COVID-19 pandemic made it more difficult to afford transport. Reduced services on public transport is limiting the options that are available for disabled people, with taxis in particular being an expensive alternative.

“I was unable to access the drive-in flu clinic as I couldn’t afford a taxi.”

“My concern is that even after the pandemic we will lose bus services and be cut off if you can’t afford a taxi or car.”

“Taxis are expensive”

“Bus services are unreliable now and as I can’t use my bus pass on any other forms of transport I can’t afford to travel.”

“The reduced public transport options have led to me having fewer choices and as a result my journeys are costing me more.”

Conclusion

The majority of respondents have encountered difficulties with accessing services due to changes to public transport, such as altered timetables and reduced capacity. This has restricted disabled people from getting to work and accessing medical appointments. Community transport services are proving to offer vital support in communities across Scotland, particularly where alternative modes of transport are running reduced services or are too expensive.  

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