A coach company is ignoring access laws by refusing to allow wheelchair-users to travel on its services on the same day they buy tickets, while exposing its drivers to possible criminal charges.
Transport laws state that any company that has already introduced accessible coaches – even though this is not obligatory until 2020 – must ensure that those vehicles provide a space for wheelchair-users to travel in their wheelchairs.
Although the coach company National Express does have such spaces on nearly all its vehicles, they are usually covered by temporary seats, and it demands at least 24 hours’ notice to remove them and so clear the space if a wheelchair-user wishes to travel in their wheelchair.
But accessible transport campaigner Doug Paulley has demonstrated that National Express is breaching the law by failing to ensure those spaces can be accessed easily and refusing to allow wheelchair-users to “turn up and go” on its services.
He is due to discuss the issue with the managing director of National Express, Chris Hardy.
Paulley’s concerns about the way the company dealt with wheelchair-users who wish to travel spontaneously were first confirmed last August.
He bought a ticket from Bradford to Leeds on a coach that was leaving within half an hour, but when he reached the coach he was told he should have given 24 hours’ notice and would not be allowed to board as it would take too long to remove the temporary seating.
Any coaches that have been adapted to be compliant with Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations – as National Express’s have – must provide a wheelchair space and make that space available to wheelchair-users.
Separate laws state that a coach driver is committing a criminal offence* if he or she does not allow a wheelchair-user to access that space, if it is not occupied by another disabled passenger and the coach is not full.
Such spaces are legally defined as unoccupied even if they are covered by temporary seating.
After realising in February that the coach driver could have been committing a criminal offence, Paulley contacted West Yorkshire Police, which initially refused to treat the incident as a crime.