Using public transport with your scooter or powered wheelchair
Getting the most out of your scooter or powered wheelchair may from time to time involve using public transport. Some customers tell us that using their product on buses and trains can be challenging at first, so we’ve put together some travel tips that you might find useful.
Planning your trip in advance
- Call your travel company or look on their website to find out details of disabled parking availability, and the accessibility in the station or depot that you will be travelling to and from
- If you think you will require assistance on your journey, you may be able to book this with your transport operator in advance; most operators will require a minimum of 24 hours’ notice
- Some train providers offer a ‘Passenger Assist’ service, where free help can be arranged for getting on and off the train with baggage. You can book passenger assistance through National Rail Enquiries by calling 03457 48 49 50 or visiting their website, at nationalrail.co.ukOpens in new window
Many rail and bus operators offer a service that is accessible to people requiring specific assistance.
Permit schemes have been developed across the UK by the Confederation for Passenger Transport (CPT), and in London by Transport for London (TFL).
The majority of buses now offer easy access, often with lowered floors to make getting on and off easier and more comfortable, and provide better access for wheelchair users. Your bus company may offer their own permit scheme, or be signed up to a CPT scheme, where you are provided with a credit-card sized permit that you show to the bus driver to confirm that you are allowed to travel with your scooter or powered wheelchair. You will need to contact the bus company directly to find out if they offer a scheme and to find out the next steps.
To be able to travel on board, your scooter will also need to meet the following criteria:
- Travel up to 4mph and be suitable for pavement use only (Class 2 product)
- The dimensions and size must be no more than 60cm wide and 100cm long
If you are unsure about the size of your product, the manufacturers’ brochures or manuals will usually state the size of your scooter; alternatively you can check this with your Motability dealer.
The majority of train travel providers will allow you to carry a folded-up scooter or wheelchair on to the train as luggage, and some will also let you travel on the train whilst using your product. The permitted size varies between service providers.
Our best suggestion if you wish to use your scooter or powered wheelchair on a train is to contact the service provider you’re going to be travelling with so that they can let you know their specific requirements.
Rica, a national research charity that provides information to help disabled and older people live independently, have information on their website about public transport operators who have accessibility for mobility scooters and powered wheelchair use.
You can find more information, including details of which local bus services run scooter permit schemes, at rica.org.uk/content/mobility-scooters-buses Opens in new window
You can also find more details about accessibility on train services at rica.org.uk/content/trains Opens in new window
You should feel confident when using public transport so that you can enjoy your product safely. Here are a few tips to help you when using buses or trains with your scooter or powered wheelchair.
- Keep your mobility product stable when carrying items, for example shopping, by using any storage capacity such as a basket. There shouldn’t be any items hanging down on the front, side or rear of your scooter or powered wheelchair
- Take care when using a ramp, particularly when there is wet or icy weather
- Approach the ramp straight-on, and if possible adjust your speed function for slower speed when getting on and off the bus or train
- Look for information on buses or trains which displays the safest position for travelling, for example on buses it is often best to face the opposite direction that the bus is travelling. If there is an upright pad fixed at one end of the wheelchair area the back of your product would usually rest against this. Put your brakes on and turn the power off when in the travelling position
- Take your time – even if the service is busy, it’s important that you continue to put safety first
- Make full use of the handrails available, as these will help you stay as stable as possible whilst the bus or train is in motion
Some travel operators may offer concessions for people with a disability; contact the provider directly to enquire about any concessions they offer.