UK: The Disability Discrimination Act 2005: impact on the transport sector

Last Updated: 22 April 2005
Article by Bill Carr

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 received Royal Assent on 7 April 2005. The Act amends the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and is of relevance to providers of public transport, particularly the rail sector.

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The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 received Royal Assent on 7 April 2005. The Act amends the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, introducing provisions that will impact on all providers of public transport, particularly the rail sector.

Right of access to services (Part III of the 1995 Act)

Section 19 of the 1995 Act prohibits providers of services from discriminating against disabled people in the provision of services - by, for example, failing to make reasonable adjustments. Section 19(5)(b) excludes transport providers from this requirement.

However, the new Act allows the Government to issue regulations to remove this exemption, to require providers of certain transport services to allow disabled people access to transport services on a non-discriminatory basis. The new provision applies to providers of a "transport service", which means a service involving the "transport of people by vehicle". A "vehicle" is a vehicle transporting people by land, air or water. Therefore the provisions may apply to railways, London Underground, light rail, metro services, buses, and shipping and air services. The new Act enables the Government to apply these sections in whole or in part to different transport vehicles at different times.

It should be noted that transport infrastructure, such as railway stations, were already covered by the 1995 Act. The new Act enables the Government to extend the provisions to the transport vehicle itself.

The new Act will allow the Government to make it unlawful to, for example, refuse somebody with a disability to board a vehicle simply because they are disabled, or to charge a disabled person more for the same service as other passengers. Transport providers will have to act positively by making reasonable adjustments in the way the service is provided. For example, rail operators may have to provide 'at seat' catering services if a disabled person would be unable to reach the buffet car.

Rail vehicles: accessibility regulations

Part V of the 1995 Act allowed the Government to make "accessibility regulations" for all new land-based public transport vehicles. This led to the issue of detailed technical requirements for trains, buses and coaches in order to make them accessible to disabled people.

Technical requirements were issued for rail vehicles under the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998. All new rail vehicles had to meet these requirements by 1 January 1999. However, rail vehicles already in operation before 1 January 1999 did not have to meet these requirements.

The 2005 Act alters this position. All rail vehicles will now have to be accessible by an "end date", being no later than 1 January 2020 (section 4A). The Secretary of State has the power to exempt certain vehicles from this requirement following consultation with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee.

Furthermore, all new and refurbished rolling stock will have to be issued with an accessibility compliance certificate before being used for passenger carriage. The Government will issue regulations prescribing which new and refurbished vehicles will require a certificate. Regulations will also set a date from which time those vehicles will have to be certified. Civil penalties will result if rolling stock is used without a compliance certificate being in place.

Impact of the 2005 Act for the rail sector

The main impact will be increased costs for rail operators. There may, for example, be a need for staff to receive further training on disability awareness and how to provide particular services to disabled passengers. Secondly, operators may need to provide more staff to assist disabled passengers, for example on driver only services. Thirdly, the costs of updating vehicles to comply with the refurbishment and certificate rules may be passed on to operators.

On 22 March 2005 the Department of Transport and Strategic Rail Authority announced that they had earmarked Ł370 million for improving accessibility in the rail network as part of the 'Railways For All' plan. A consultation paper has been produced, with the Strategic Rail Authority inviting responses to comment on how the money should be allocated (responses must be received by 14 June 2005).

The paper can be accessed at: http://www.sra.gov.uk/publications.

Part of the fund could be made available to assist rail operators in complying with the new legislation. The results of the consultation, and details of how the money will be allocated, is intended to be published in an Accessibility Strategy in summer 2005.

Rail operators may have to make other practical changes, including having to abolish 24-hour book-ahead requirements for disabled passengers, as such requirements may be deemed unreasonable. For guidance on issues such as this, operators are advised to consult the Code of Practice that will be produced by the Disability Rights Commission.

On a more positive note, with an estimated 10 million disabled adults in the UK, the rail sector is likely to see increased passenger usage as a result of improved access arrangements for disabled passengers.

Impact for other sectors

The provisions on the right of access to services (amending Part III of the 1995 Act) apply to other forms of land-based transport such as buses, taxis and private hire vehicles. The Government is also expected to issue regulations in respect of these transport services in the future. In relation to Part V, end dates by which these forms of transport have to comply have already been determined for buses and coaches, and these are between 31 December 2000, 1 January 2015 and 1 January 2020, depending on the type of vehicle.

The aviation industry is subject to a code of practice entitled 'Access to Air Travel For Disabled People'. It is in line with the spirit of Part III although it is a voluntary code of practice. A similar code of practice applies to the shipping industry. The Government has stated that it intends to review the degree of compliance with these codes of practice and, depending upon the outcome of the review, may issue regulations that apply Part III to these industries. Part V of the new Act does not apply to the aviation or shipping industries.

The Railways Act 2005 also received Royal Assent on 7 April 2005. We shall be issuing a Law-Now in relation to the Act shortly.

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to www.law-now.com/law-now/mondaq

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 21/04/2005.

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