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£72bn boost from making transport accessible to disabled people

Thursday, 03 March 2022

Making transport fully accessible for disabled people would deliver £72.4 billion of socio-economic benefit to the UK each year, according to new analysis released today by the charity Motability. 

The “Transport Accessibility Gap’ report reveals the economic impact that inaccessible transport has on disabled people’s lives, with disabled people taking 38% fewer journeys than non-disabled people every year – a figure that hasn’t changed in a decade. 

Disabled people told the charity that they’d had to turn down training opportunities because they couldn’t use public transport alone, they could no longer use A-roads due to a lack of public toilets and that they couldn’t travel out of their local area.

Problems accessing transport contribute to wide ranging disadvantage for disabled people, such as:

  • A quarter of working age disabled people cite inaccessible transport as a key barrier to employment.
  • Disabled people are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, despite applying for 60% more jobs.
  • Nearly half of those in poverty in the UK are either disabled or live with a disabled person.

The analysis shows that closing the transport accessibility gap could generate £72.4bn worth of economic benefits each year in the UK, through improved access to employment, education, training, healthcare and social opportunities for disabled people. This is the equivalent of almost the entire UK public sector spend on education per year.

However, there is a lack of specific evidence about what disabled people need across different modes of transport and what needs to change, particularly for new and emerging transport modes such as electric and autonomous vehicles.

Motability believes that the scale of the research, innovation and collaboration needed to make transport accessible merits significant investment and is planning to fund a £20million Evidence Centre for inclusive transport, launching early next year.

In the interim, the report recommends:

  • Improved evidence gathering: A wide range of public and charitable programmes aim to address transport accessibility challenges, but too often disabled people’s voices and experiences aren’t treated as evidence or prioritised within research. There is also a lack of specific and robust evidence of what accessible looks like for new and emerging modes of transport, and what existing best practice and solutions should be scaled.
  • Improving accessible mobility services: Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) only apply to vehicles with a capacity exceeding 22 passengers.  Improving this, to include ride hailing services and car sharing options, could offer significant benefit for disabled people.
  • Improved real-time journey planning: Ensuring data on the status of lifts and escalators is better shared by transport authorities, to allow disabled people to be more certain about their journeys.
  • Automation: Disabled people are 33% less likely to hold a driving license.  Whilst widespread deployment of autonomous transport modes is likely to be some way off, accessibility needs to be factored in at the design and planning stage.
  • Measurement and appraisal: There is limited ability within appraisal frameworks such as the Department for Transport’s WebTAG framework to measure benefits associated with improved transport accessibility. This has implications for decision makers in both prioritising accessibility investments relative to non-accessibility investments, but also in understanding the benefits associated with different types of accessibility projects.
  • Data and 5G technology: 5G and AI technology can be harnessed to pro-actively identify customer needs and prepare for them, improving journey planning and reliability, while also having direct contact with customers through instantaneous feedback channels.

Barry Le Grys, Chief Executive of Motability the charity, said:

Being unable to make the journeys they want to has a huge impact on disabled people’s daily lives, from getting a job to attending medical appointments to seeing friends and family.

“The fact the transport accessibility gap hasn’t improved in a decade shows that decision makers and transport providers need to listen and learn from disabled people’s experiences, and create solutions which mean they can expect to travel across road, rail, air and sea like non-disabled people.

“With the country working towards Net Zero and creating new ways of travelling, whether through electric vehicles or active travel, now is the time to innovate accessible transport options so that disabled people aren’t left behind.”

Read the Transport Accessibility Gap report here.