Weekly Poll Just Transition: Transport
We conducted a poll with Disability Equality Scotland Members seeking their views on the Scottish Government’s just Transition Plan for Transport. This poll was shared with members on 23 June 2023.
The number of respondents was 60.
Question 1: Do you Agree with the actions the Scottish Government plan to take to reduce car use?
- Yes 34%
- No 66%
Question 2: What needs to be considered to ensure that reducing car use doesn’t unfairly impact specific groups of people, such as disabled people and people who live in rural areas?
We asked members for their comments and feedback.
The overall themes which emerged from responses were as follows:
- Reliability and lack of provision of public transport in rural areas Concerns around the affordability of public transport
- Lack of accessible/ wheelchair spaces on public transport particularly on buses.
- Electric Vehicle costs, charging infrastructure.
- Increased number of bus and train services especially in rural areas.
- A lot of respondents said that they are worried the loss of their car could adversely affect their independence.
A majority of respondents said they did not support the Scottish Government’s plans to reduce car use as part of a just transition. However, even those who supported the proposals expressed concerns about their practical implementation.
Concerns with access, reliability and provision of public Transport
An overwhelming number of respondents cited serious worries relating to the reliability and provision of transport services such as the bus and the train. Many respondents also expressed concerns that the current proposals do not address ongoing lack of provision of accessible spaces on buses or trains which help wheelchair users or those with a disability which affects their mobility.
“I agree with the goal of reducing car use, but public transport accessibility needs to be fixed first. Even in so-called accessible buses, the drivers in Glasgow refuse to get the ramp out for me in a full half of my journeys. This has put me off of bus travel… Until buses and trains can be boarded without having to chase down a member of station staff, or begging with the driver to please get out of their cabin to get you the ramp; wheelchair users will still use cars no matter how many new local stations are built. This is a major foundational issue with public transport access.”
“More frequent public transport, covering a wider area and suitable for wheelchairs to get on and off is required. Online shopping should also cover a wider area.”
“I recently travel to Edinburgh from Stirling 26/5/23 at 3.30pm and the express bus had no downstairs seats at all. This meant no wheelchair or disabled access was available. When I questioned the driver about this I was told all wheelchair passengers had to prebook. I couldn’t believe it a week later I travelled from Dundee and the same type of bus, driver downstairs and all seats upstairs. So totally unsuitable for individual with mobility issues. Until there is satisfactory public transport certain disabled individuals will always be car dependent.”
“Reduction in the use of cars is more workable in urban areas than rural. This is especially true for disabled and all the people who live in more rural areas where there is little or no bus service, and if there is a bus service, it is more often than not inaccessible to anyone with a mobility impairment.”
Electric Vehicle Transition and Infrastructure
While respondents recognized the plans to reduce car use and the need to transition to electric vehicles they expressed concerns about how this will be achieved. The focus of these worries were the affordability of purchasing an electric vehicle and having the right charging infrastructure in place across Scotland.
“Reduction in the use of cars is more workable in urban areas than rural. This is especially true for disabled and all the people who live in more rural areas where there is little or no bus service, and if there is a bus service, it is more often than not inaccessible to anyone with a mobility impairment…If one then takes the purple pound into consideration the disadvantage that the combination of elements that collectively affect disabled people is considerable.”
“Being disabled I would use an electric car if i could only find some way of charging as I have no driveway.”
“Not enough thought or preplanning has taken place. Electric cars are expensive and out of the financial reach of the majority. The infrastructure needed to charge cars is sadly not up to par. People need information on where working charging stations are located, in order to plan a journey… I have a bus pass however; it is no use to me for work purposes. The bus takes 90minutes…Trains are unreliable and far too expensive. There are no discounts for disabled workers traveling at peak times. We need more transport links including buses which only stop in major town centres with good transport links to other areas.”
One of our respondents also outlined potential alternatives to focusing on powering of vehicles with inclusion of hydrogen power instead of electricity:
“I believe that both the Scottish and Westminster governments would better, serve the people by investing in a more varied forms of propulsion than relying on predominately electric. For instance, more investment in hydrogen, propulsion…would be a huge step forward instead of governments, putting all their eggs in one basket. Energy is expensive enough just now in simply keeping one’s home warm without trying to charge electric vehicles.”
Some respondents are worried about the impact of the plans on their personal independence as a disabled person. The application of a just transition with a reduction of cars could adversely result in disabled people not being able to travel in their daily lives because they may not be able to use public transport due to their disability.
“Most people take their cars and ability to travel around them very much for granted, with little or no regard for environmental consequences. Something needs to be done to prevent unnecessary car usage, to make people plan their journeys better to minimise car use, use of public transport, cycling and walking should all be encouraged. However, for those of us with mobility issues, those with disabilities meaning they need to travel using their own vehicle because they cannot be in contact with other people and those of us living in remote areas with little or no public transport, there has to be allowances made.”
One of the key schemes which disabled people use to support them to travel is their Blue Badge. Some respondents felt that when it comes to developing the Just Transition Plan for Transport policy makers need to design a plan which considers the need for accessible parking.
“It has to be acknowledged that many disabled people are dependent upon their vehicles to remain active in civic society and daily life. Schemes that design out vehicle use without considering accessible parking and vehicular access exemptions for Blue Badge users would be discriminatory. One only has to look at recent experiences in York when Blue Badge users were denied access to the city centre during peak business hours to see how poor planning impacts people’s lives.”
One respondent highlighted that the plans don’t full recognise the challenges faced by those who need a mobility vehicle or an adapted vehicle to help them to maintain their independence. As part of this they suggested that the Motability Scheme should be reformed to reflect the need to transition to electric vehicles which should form the backbone of the scheme.
“A car is a mobility aid for a lot of disabled people. As we get older our physical abilities and eyesight changes. People who weren’t disabled by a condition before age 40 are frequently so disabled they qualify for PIP enhanced mobility rate after age 50. It’s not a small section of the population being “nimby” or misunderstanding the need for change- it’s about a significant percentage of the population at risk of being trapped in their own home as public transport isn’t accessible at all in Scotland.” (Sic.)
Our poll showed that most of our members don’t support the plans put forward because they have very serious concerns about how this will affect them and their peers. Most respondents agree with the sentiment that we do need a just transition. However, the challenges in accessing public transport and the reliability of service means that until this is fully addressed these plans have the potential to seriously impact on personal independence.
The transition to electric vehicles with appropriate charging infrastructure needs to also be a key part of any just transition. Our members are concerned that the cost of electric vehicles is prohibitive and presents a barrier for them and people across Scotland more generally. Furthermore, the ability to charge any vehicle is also a worry. This barrier to accessing a “grid” of charging points in rural areas presents a particular problem in achieving a just transition. As part of the wider scope of the transition several members noted the importance of the blue badge scheme and the need to ensure that the Motability Scheme or any mobility vehicle scheme should make the transition to electric vehicles as soon as possible through a universal offer.
For everyone their personal independence and being able to go about their daily lives without facing societal barriers is central to who they are. Our members are clear in their view that these changes have the potential to undermine their independence because not everyone is able to use public transport due to their condition and others have no access to it because of where they live.
In short, for these plans to be effective their needs to be a flexible model applied as a one size fits all approach doesn’t fully recognise that everyone’s disability affects them differently or the variability of people’s conditions. However, while members do want to see the climate emergency addressed; the just transition also presents an opportunity to also deliver a fully inclusive society for disabled people by removing structural and systematic barriers.