HC Deb 26 July 1999 vol 336 cc2-3W
Joan Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on progress in improving accessibility to public transport for people with disabilities in London. [92404]

Ms Glenda Jackson

Progress at the national level will impact on London. We are already bringing forward regulations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to require new trains, buses and newly licensed taxis to be accessible to disabled people, including those in wheelchairs.

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations came into effect on 1 January 1999 requiring all new trains, including Underground trains, to meet requirements for wheelchair access and a range of other features to help people with disabilities. We are proposing that all new single deck buses will have to comply with similar regulations from next year and double deckers from the year after. There are now nearly 1,000 low floor buses in use throughout London, and most areas will have routes on which this type of vehicle are in operation.

All taxis in London will be accessible by 1 January 2000 and there are already more than 16,000 accessible taxis in the fleet. National requirements on accessibility are proposed to come into effect from 2002 and will lead to further improvements in access standards for taxis. Other provisions of the Act which come into effect in 2004 will also require reasonable steps to be taken to remove or alter barriers to access Underground stations. Investment in the Underground, which the Public Private Partnership will bring, will, amongst other things, enable work to be carried out to establish a network of key stations which would be fully accessible to those with mobility problems.

Dedicated door-to-door services in London are currently provided primarily by the Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard schemes. Working with the Commission for Accessible Transport we will be taking forward their proposals on pilot schemes on better co-ordination of services.

The Greater London Authority Bill places a duty on the mayor to address transport issues affecting disabled people and others who may face difficulties in using all forms of public transport. The mayor's transport strategy must (under clause 124(2)(a) of the Bill) contain proposals for transport which is accessible. London Boroughs Local Implementation Plans will have to deliver the mayoral strategy.

Schedule 8(3) of the Bill places the mayor under a duty to have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the membership of Transport for London represents the interests of those who require accessible transport.