Carers for disabled passengers should fly for free, MPs say

Carers should not be charged to fly if airline rules mean disabled people have to be accompanied, MPs have said.

Some airlines require carers for people who cannot manage emergency procedures, so the Transport Select Committee wants an EU rule that carers should not pay.In a wide-ranging report, the MPs said UK transport access for the disabled was “unacceptably poor” and momentum had been lost after the Paralympics.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it was improving access.

Launching the Access to Transport for Disabled People report, Transport Select Committee chairwoman Louise Ellman said changes before the 2012 Paralympic Games had shown the “immense value” of better access.”Yet a year later, there is a risk that some of the momentum from London 2012 is being lost because further key accessibility improvements planned by DfT are being watered down or abandoned,” she said.

Among the committee’s proposals were calls for bus drivers to get disability awareness training and rail operators to provide “organised assistance” as standard.It also suggested financial incentives to make all taxis and private hire vehicles accessible within 10 years and called on the government to try to get an EU regulation on free air travel for carers.

Improving access to transport would help cut benefits spending as more people would be able to go out and work, the MPs said.

They also said it would boost the economy by letting more disabled people visit cafes, bars and shops, and make it easier to reach healthcare centres – reducing the need for home visits.

Guy Parckar, of charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “All too often, disabled people find that inaccessible transport prevents them from enjoying the same opportunities as anyone else.”

He said improvements had been made but the UK should be a “world leader in access for disabled people”.

The DfT said it was “taking action” to provide high-quality, accessible public transport.”For example, our £370m Access for All programme is delivering improvements at over 1,000 train stations and we recently announced an additional £100m to carry the work of the scheme forward,” a spokesman said.

“We thank the committee for its work and will respond to the report and its recommendations in due course.”