Page last updated at 07:08 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

New transport law to protect disabled passengers in NI

Metro bus
Translink said its bus and rail services were now "more accessible than ever"

A new law making it illegal for transport operators to discriminate against disabled customers comes into force in Northern Ireland on Monday.

The "Disability Transport Regulations" cover trains, buses, coaches, taxis, vehicle rental and breakdown services.

It is now unlawful to treat a disabled person less favourably than able-bodied customers by offering a lower standard of service, for example.

The regulations have been welcomed by Translink and the Equality Commission.

Awareness campaign

The Equality Commission's chief executive, Evelyn Collins, said the new regulations would "make a positive and practical contribution to enabling disabled people to realise new opportunities for work and leisure that may not have been open to them before".

She added that her organisation gets "more calls about disability discrimination than anything else".

Nearly a third of all callers who contacted the commission's enquiry line last year made a complaint about the issue.

To coincide with the introduction of the regulations on Monday, the Equality Commission is launching a major advertising campaign to advise people of their new rights and "to make transport operators aware of the guidance available to help them comply with the law".

Translink, which is the main provider of public transport in Northern Ireland, said it welcomed the regulations which were introduced by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Heavy investment

Its group chief executive, Catherine Mason, said: "We work closely with a range of organisations including disabled groups in order to better understand the needs of all our customers.

"Over recent years we have invested heavily in our people, fleet and stations and now our services are more accessible than ever."

She added they would continue to work with the Equality Commission and disabled organisations on the issue.

Translink said all its new vehicles meet "the latest accessibility standards including low floor ramped access, dedicated wheelchair space and priority seats".

It added that all its NI Railways trains were "fully accessible" and all main Metro routes in Belfast have "low floored easy access".

Not all of its current Ulsterbus and Goldline coach services have low floor access.

However, Translink said it was in the process of taking delivery of "60 new fully accessible Ulsterbus vehicles".

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