Education And Debate

Caring for Older People: Public transport

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 17 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:415
  1. T A Roper, registrara,
  2. G P Mulley, Professorb
  1. aLadywell Hospital, Salford M5 2AA
  2. bDepartment of Medicine for the Elderly, St James's University Hospital, Leeds
  1. Correspondence to: Dr T A Roper, Department of Medicine for the Elderly, St Luke's Hospital, Bradford BD5 0NA.

    Most older people are mobile and able to use public transport without any problems. Those who are hard of hearing or have poor vision and those with mobility problems need not be deterred from using public transport. Though the design and provision of suitable buses, taxis, and trains is not always optimum, many now have imaginative features to help older passengers. Travel by air and sea needs extra planning for disabled elderly people, but helpful advice is available and much can be done to enable even the most disabled traveller to make long journeys confidently and in comfort.

    Local travel

    Most elderly travellers are able to use all forms of public transport without any problems, but those with impaired mobility and sensory impairments may have some difficulties. A disabled passenger should have the right to unrestricted access to all means of transport and be able to use them with ease and confidence.


    The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC, a statutory body) has consulted disabled people and recommended improvements in the design of buses. These include lower steps; split level steps; “kneeling buses,” whose mechanisms can effectively lower the bus and hence decrease step height; better handholds; non-slip floors; and easy to use bell pushes.

    Most buses no longer have conductors. Passengers cannot expect physical assistance from drivers, who must stay in their cabs. There are training schemes to make drivers more aware of the needs of disabled travellers—for example, waiting until they are seated before driving off.

    Specially adapted buses can take wheelchair users. Assistants help with boarding and securing wheelchairs. Some of these services operate semi-fixed routes and are flexible, allowing travellers to alight near or at their homes. These services also cater for the general public, and fares are charged at standard rates.

    In London, the Stationlink service is …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription