Transport accessibility for older people

Having access to transport is vital for people to maintain independence, prevent social isolation and ensure good quality of life. Transport accessibility, therefore, is particularly important for older people who are at risk of being socially isolated of and losing their independence.

This section will primarily discuss access to public transportation and specifically excludes transport provided directly by the NHS.

The importance of accessibility is recognised in Slough’s Third Local Transport Plan (SLTP) which sets out an accessibility strategy up to 2026.

As highlighted by the government’s paper Transport Solutions for Older People:

“Local Transport Plans (LTPs), and accessibility planning in particular, provide local authorities with the opportunity to tackle barriers in a clear and systematic way. Any improvements will benefit not just older people but improve access for many other members of the community.”

What do we know?

As we get older, the number of trips we take using any form of transport reduces. Despite this, older people tend to use healthcare services (visiting the GP or hospital) more than other sections of the community.

Older people on average make proportionately more trips by public transport (bus, coach and rail). Buses are the most popular form of public transport and they are used frequently. Thirty-nine percent of people over 60 take a bus at least once a week.(Source: Age UK)

Many things can make getting around a problem. For example:

  • personal disability
  • physical barriers such as steps, busy traffic roads, poorly maintained footways, parked cars, lack of signs
  • concerns about personal safety
  • lack of convenient bus services
  • difficulties in getting information about travel, especially if English is not your first language
  • cost of travel by bus or train.

Facts, Figures, Trends

Although older people make up proportionally less of Slough’s population than the national average their number is expected to increase at the greatest rate by 2021 (Office for National Statistics).

Some 14% of Slough residents - many older people - have a limiting long term disability which can limit their ability to access transport services (Census, 2011).

Not surprisingly, accessibility problems are most acute for older people who do not have access to a car.

Figure 1 shows the percentage of people across different areas in Berkshire who reported having no access to a car or van in the national Census 2011.

Figure 1: Households with no car or van – LSOA 2011

Figure 1: Households with no car or van – LSOA 2011

Source: Census 2011

Another useful way to measure accessibility issues is through using indicators such as “road distance from a GP” and “road distance to a food shop”. Measures such as these are collected together in a single score as part of the Index of Multiple Deprivation under the theme ‘geographical barriers’. Figure 2 shows the areas of Slough with the highest levels of these ‘geographical barriers’ i.e. the furthest distances to amenities.

Figure 2: Index of multiple deprivation – geographical barriers 2010 – LSOA

Figure 2: Index of multiple deprivation – geographical barriers 2010 – LSOA

National & Local Strategies (Current best practices)

National

The Latest national policy guidance “Door to door” focuses on four core areas

  • Accurate, accessible information
  • Convenient and affordable tickets
  • Regular and straightforward connections
  • Safe and comfortable transport facilities

The government report Transport solutions for older people (Department for Transport 2012) in setting out the priorities for older people’s transport describe the priorities as:

  • affordability
  • availability
  • accessibility
  • acceptability.

Local

As part of Slough’s Third Local Transport Plan (LTP3) the LTP3 Accessibility Supplementary Strategy Document sets out an accessibility strategy for up to 2026.

Details of local action to address barriers to transport accessibility are detailed below:

Personal disability

Activity to improve access for those with disabilities includes Slough Community Transport (‘Out and About dial-a-ride offering affordable accessible transport in specially designed vehicles), low floor buses and raised kerbs at bus stops, accessible taxis and availability of Shopmobility.

Physical barriers to accessing transport

Dropped kerbs and audible alerts at road crossings, as well as ramps, handrails and surface treatments have been installed in the borough. Lifts were provided at Slough station in 2012. There has also been a trial ban of parking on the pavement in central Slough streets.

Concerns about personal safety

In order to address concerns personal safety, redesign of public spaces as well as improved street lighting has been implemented.

Lack of convenient bus services

Improved links have been provided to serve Wexham Park Hospital. Council funding has also been invested in non-commercial but socially necessary bus routes. Despite this action, some areas of the borough are still affected by changes in bus services due to council budgetary constraints or commercial decisions by the operators.

Difficulties in getting information about travel

Displays at bus stops. with real time information at busy bus stops including Slough bus and rail stations and  Wexham Park Hospital.

Cost of travel by bus or train

On top of the  well as the mandatory bus concessions provided by the National Concessionary Travel Scheme, Slough Borough Council  also offers free travel for any person travelling as the companion of a disabled person.

What is this telling us?

Though older people in some parts of Slough are likely to face more accessibility and transport challenges, Slough has a comprehensive public transport strategy in place to ensure that older people’s transport needs are met.

What are the key inequalities?

Geographic

As described above, distance from amenities can be a significant barrier to older people’s transport and accessibility. Though a largely urban area, some residential areas in Slough are some distance from basic amenities such as food shops and GP surgeries.

Socioeconomic

Socioeconomic deprivation can affect both access to private transport (i.e. car or van ownership) as well as ability to afford public transport. Some neighbourhoods in Slough are within the most deprived 20% nationally.

What are the unmet needs/ service gaps?

  • Council support for non-commercial bus services is limited by available budgets.
  • An increase in the number of older people will increase demand for community transport services.
  • Public transport information for people whose first language is not English.
  • Continuing investment needed in improving and maintaining footways, road crossings, lighting and other highway infrastructure affecting accessibility.

Recommendations for consideration by other key organisations

Feedback from General Practices on local transport accessibility issues would be helpful:

  • more exploration needed on links between public health function and local transport policy
  • future updates of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment to include local data extracted from the LTP3 Accessibility Supplementary Strategy Document.

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