Rail Industry Focus

04.09.19

Accessibility at the heart of the transport revolution

Source: RTM August/September

Accessibility minister, Nusrat Ghani MP, explains why accessibility must be a key factor in any widespread changes to the transport network in Britain.

Within the last ten years, government has worked to make transport accessible to everyone. Over £500m has gone into supporting our ambition for a more inclusive transport system, making railways easier to use and opening up the transport network to all. The Inclusive Transport Strategy set out our ambition to create a transport system that provides equal access for disabled people by 2030, with the added provision for assistance if physical infrastructure remains a barrier. And most recently we announced that another 73 stations across Great Britain will benefit from a £300m extension to our Access for All programme which has already delivered accessible, step-free routes at over 200 train stations. 

Britain is now on the verge of a transport revolution and accessibilitymust be at the heart of it. Radical new technologies are emerging that will transform the way we travel through innovations we couldn’t even imagine a few years ago. Such fundamental change within a relatively short period of time and across so many technologies is unprecedented – the last of which in travel was the surge in affordable motoring in the 1950s. We must therefore seize this opportunity and ensure the benefits of this new, 21st century revolution are felt across the whole of society – making journeys safer, greener and more reliable too.

The recently-published Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy set out the government’s predictions for the future of transport within cities and how it plans to accommodate those changes and tap into the opportunities. All ideas are underpinned by nine principles to guide future decision-making – with a prominent principle focusing solely on making transport accessible to all.

But what does this mean for those in the transport industry? The previous roads minister, Jesse Norman, recently announced the government’s intention to ensure future transport is accessible to all at the Flourish self-driving car event in Bristol. Reaffirming our commitment within his speech, he inferred that future transport innovations will only receive government backing if they can demonstrate their accessibility.

The government funds many projects and the decision to place importance on inclusivity within design will be pivotal to the transport revolution, shaping our future system.

Accessibility is about more than transport, as barriers to mobility can have a big impact on mental health and wellbeing, with people feeling isolated and lonely. It can also negatively impact the physical health of those affected too.

We are already seeing the benefits of inclusive transport technologies being introduced, and it’s important that the different modes of transport are able to link in together. Flourish, the self-driving car project, is aiming to help elderly or disabled people enjoy the freedom to travel in a way that many of us take for granted.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in North Wales is working with businesses on projects to assist people living with dementia who experience high levels of anxiety when travelling to hospital. They have developed a unique dementia-friendly transport app to direct people from their house to the relevant department within the hospital when traveling for their appointment. Another project assesses real-time traffic data to provide the quietest route for users through an app, helping avoid stressful environments such as crowded locations or unstaffed stations. Future developments will see the app use image recognition to reassure the user they are in the right location. We need innovations like this in rail.

We recognise that more needs to be done to improve the quality of people’s lives through transport accessibility. The government is committed to making this vision a reality and we are now calling on private companies, leading the way with their creativity, to share in our vision of an inclusive and accessible future transport system.

Change is happening at a rapid rate. In order for us all to keep up, I urge more of our world leading innovators and first-class companies to share in our optimism and, most importantly, to get on board with the principle of accessibility for all.

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