Has Covid-19 made transport less accessible?

25 January 2021

Transport Focus research shows that many people have felt confident using public transport during the pandemic, whether for essential journeys or for leisure purposes when restrictions have been relaxed. But this is not the case for everyone.

For some, safety concerns present a real barrier to travelling, especially if they have not made a journey by public transport since the start of the pandemic. This barrier is higher for disabled people.

Our research shows that disabled people are less likely to use public transport as much as they did before the pandemic, even when the vaccination programme has been rolled out. So, what do operators need to do to restore confidence among disabled passengers and encourage them to use public transport again once current restrictions have been lifted?

We have been meeting with rail, bus and motorway service operators to find out about the different accessibility initiatives they have put in place since the pandemic began. We want to know how they have helped their disabled customers to overcome any difficulties that Covid safety measures may present and feel confident using their services. We will also be asking disabled transport users about their experiences making journeys, the effectiveness of some of these initiatives and barriers to future transport use.

Our research has highlighted the numerous barriers that disabled people already faced before Covid. It is important that the pandemic does not add to these. This is one area where it is essential that we ‘build back better’.

When the pandemic is over, or managed sufficiently that freedom of movement is restored, one of the biggest challenges for operators will be restoring confidence in using their services. It’s clear that additional work will be needed to ensure disabled people feel confident traveling again.

We will be exploring this topic further with experts across different modes of transport at our accessibility webinar in the spring – more information coming soon.

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