Door to Door: a travel guide for disabled people
Before you travel: Help with costs
Key points to consider | Sources of information and advice | A note of caution - mobility scooters | Insurance | Medical preparations | Legislation - the DDA | Help to travel independently | Personal assistance | Help with costs | Benefits and allowances
Disabled travellers may incur additional travel costs that other travellers do not have to pay, for example having to pay to use taxis rather than buses. State benefits such as the Disability Living Allowance are designed to help with some of these costs.
There are also some charitable funds that may be able to help. These come from a variety of sources, which may need the help of an advisor to identify, but there are some that can be found quite easily, for example:
The Armed Forces all have benevolent and welfare bodies which may be able to help with costs of travelling and holidays for ex-servicemen and women.
Trades Unions or other trade organisations usually have welfare funds that may be available to their retired members and their dependants.
Going by bus
The Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 gives a statutory guarantee of free off-peak travel for eligible older and disabled people on local bus services anywhere in England ('the national concession') - a similar concession is already available for eligible residents of Wales and Scotland. The national concession in England is a minimum concession which entitles eligible people to free travel on local bus services anywhere in England between 9.30am and 11pm on Mondays to Fridays and all day Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
The national concession is available for travel within these times, on local buses only, throughout England - including London - but it is not valid for bus travel within Scotland or Wales.
You can find more information on the Department for Transport website at: www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/buses/concessionary/ and the Directgov website at: www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/PublicTransport/BusAndCoachTravel/DG_10036264.
From 1 April 2009 minor changes have been made to the criteria for which services are included in 'the national concession'. The changes explicitly exclude certain types of service that are outside the spirit of 'the national concession' (to provide free travel on local bus services), such as tourist services, long distance intercity services or 'rail replacement' bus services. More information, and a list of all the services now excluded, can be found at: www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/buses/concessionary/informationlocalauthorities/eligibleservices/servicechanges.
Councils may give concessions that exceed the minimum requirements (e.g. times when the concession may be used in their area) so you should contact your local council, unitary authority or Passenger Transport Executive for details of any additional concessions which may be available in your local area. your local council, unitary authority or Passenger Transport Executive is responsible for supplying the 'national bus pass'. To find out your local council go to: www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/Localcouncils/index.htm.
Going by coach
National Express offers concessionary fares on their scheduled coach services if you are over 60 or disabled. No membership is involved but you have to be prepared to show proof of your eligibility - www.nationalexpress.com/coach/ourservice/disabled.aspx.
Going by rail
Disabled Persons Railcard
The Disabled Persons Railcard is available to permanently and severely disabled people. It generally entitles the holder and one accompanying adult, to one third off the cost the price of many different types of rail ticket.
The price of the one-year railcard is £18. It is also possible to purchase a railcard valid for three years. The three-year railcard costs £48. Both types of railcard also give the holder additional discounts when used to purchase other goods or services. Full details and a list of those eligible are available on the National Rail website, which also has a downloadable application form available at: www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk. Application forms are also available from the Disabled Persons Railcard Office helpline on 0845 605 0525 (textphone 0845 601 0132) or by writing to Rail Travel Made Easy, PO Box 11631, Laurencekirk, AB30 9AA.
However, you do not need a Disabled Persons Railcard to benefit from discounted rail travel if you are:
- A wheelchair user and you have to stay in your wheelchair for the duration of your journey; or
- Registered as Visually Impaired and travelling with another person.
In both cases you and one travelling companion can get discounts of one third off the First or Standard Class price of 'Anytime Single or Return' and 'Anytime Day Single' and 50% off the price of 'Anytime Day Return' tickets.
Full details of all these concessions and an application form are available in the leaflet 'Rail Travel made Easy' downloadable in various formats from the Railcard website: www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk/what-is-a-disabled-persons-railcard/information-downloads or from main rail stations.
Dogs and other small animals are carried on trains free of charge, although there is a condition that dogs must be on a lead and not take up a seat. There are now few trains which have separate restaurant cars. Where they do exist Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs and Assistance Dogs trained by a recognised training charity may be allowed into the restaurant car of a train at the steward's discretion, although every effort is made to serve meals at disabled passengers' seats.
Going by air
For UK disabled travellers there are currently no concessionary fare schemes for air travel. Some airlines offer special fare arrangements where a severely disabled person has to travel with a companion. An allowance may be possible for the second traveller, but this is at the discretion of the airline.
Where a traveller requires more than one seat, Department for Transport Code of Practice says:
"Where, because of their disability, a disabled person requires two seats, the second seat should be offered at a discount on the full fare for that flight. It is acknowledged that this arrangement is unlikely to be viable where the airline seat is sold as part of a holiday package. For reasons of viability, the airline can restrict the number of such bookings that they can accept on any particular flight."
You will need to check with the airline policy before you book.
Going by sea
Some ferry companies offer discounted fares to disabled passengers. They vary considerably and you should seek further information from the company concerned.
Taking a car on domestic and European ferry services
Concessions vary considerably and some companies give none at all. Where concessions are given they may only be available to disabled motorists who are members of one of the disabled drivers' motoring organisations. Concessions may also vary according to the time of year.
Going by car
Buying or leasing a car - the Motability schemes
For many disabled motorists the Motability schemes are the preferred way of obtaining a motor vehicle. The schemes are operated by the charity Motability (www.motability.co.uk), in connection with Motability Finance, and a network of Motability accredited dealers.
To be able to buy or lease a car using the Motability Scheme you must be in receipt of either the Higher Rate Component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or War Pensioners Mobility Supplement for the period of the contract. A car can be leased or purchased through Motability on behalf of a disabled child passenger. You can also use the Motability Scheme to buy powered wheelchairs and pavement scooters.
There are three different schemes operated by Motability. The most popular is the Lease scheme. Under this scheme you pay a non-refundable deposit and agree for the mobility component of your DLA to be paid to Motability who then use it to meet the monthly payments for a three year lease. This includes all motoring costs apart from the fuel used.
The other two schemes are special hire purchase schemes for new and used cars. Previously there has been a much lower take-up for these schemes but recent changes have been made to make them more popular.
More information about the Motability Scheme can be found at: www.motability.co.uk.
Value Added Tax (VAT)
You can get relief from VAT on the cost of a new car, and on the cost of repairs, if certain conditions are met. To qualify for zero rate of VAT on a newly purchased vehicle, the vehicle must be supplied to a disabled person who normally uses a wheelchair or stretcher for his or her own personal or domestic use only. It must be adapted to suit the particular needs of the disabled user and seat no more than 12 people. Full details are available in VAT Information Sheet 07/01 June 2001 from HM Customs and Excise.
Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)
If you receive the Higher Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or War Pensioners Mobility Supplement, you can apply for exemption from Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax). This can either be for a vehicle you drive yourself or have driven for you but the vehicle must be registered in the name of the person with the disability or a nominee and must only be used by or for the purposes of the disabled person named. The exemption certificate V188 can be obtained from the Benefits Agency.
More information about VED can be found on the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) website at: www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/.
Parking - The Blue Badge Scheme
The Blue Badge scheme is an arrangement which gives a range of parking concessions to disabled motorists throughout the European Union.
More information about the Blue Badge Scheme can be found at: www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/bluebadge/ and on the DirectGov website at: www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/MotoringAndTransport/DG_4001061.
You can also find out more information about the Blue Badge Scheme and whether you are eligible, or to get an application form, by contacting the local authority where you live - www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/Localcouncils/index.htm.
The concessions only apply to on-street parking regulations, although if you have a Blue Badge, you may be able to get other discounts, for example on some toll bridges.
- the scheme is designed to help disabled motorists overcome barriers to mobility - it is not a right, and use of the Blue Badge does not permit a disabled driver to park in such a way as to cause an obstruction or a danger to other road users.
- special arrangements apply in central London, on London's 'Red Routes' and in some other town centres.
Toll concessions on motorways, tunnels and toll bridges
Disabled people using the following toll bridges, tunnels and motorways should be entitled to concessions provided they meet certain conditions set by the owners or operators outlined below.
In some cases to qualify for the concession you will need to apply to the relevant bridge, tunnel or local authority in advance. So it is a good idea to check with owners or operators first and contact details are included where applicable.
Please note that not all toll crossings offer concessions to Blue Badge holder and possession of a badge does not automatically entitle you to concessions at some crossings.
Cleddau Bridge (A477 Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire)
Concessions are available to people who receive the Higher Rate Mobility component of Disability Living Allowance and are exempt from the payment of Vehicle Excise Duty (Road tax). Application forms can be obtained from:
The Bridge Supervisor
Cleddau Toll Bridge
Pembrokeshire, SA72 6ED
Tel: 01646 683517
Clifton Suspension Bridge (B3124: West of Bristol)
If you receive the higher rate mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance you can get an annual ticket (priced £10.00) from:
The Bridge Master
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Tel: 0117 973 8008 (for Crossing Cards)
0117 973 1579 (administration)
Dartford Tunnel and Dartford Bridge (River Thames)
If you are exempt from the payment of Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax), you can get an exemption from tolls by registering your vehicle in advance.
Tel: 01322 280200
Dunham Bridge (A57: Lincoln - Worksop)
Concessions available only to those driving motor vehicles supplied by a Government Health Department (formerly known as three-wheeled trikes).
Tel: 01777 228222
Erskine Bridge (Near Glasgow)
Now toll free to all users.
Forth Road Bridge (Near Edinburgh)
Exemption for Blue Badge holders. You should show your badge at the toll booth to qualify for the exemption.
More information and advice for frequent users can be obtained by contacting the toll authorities at:
The Forth Estuary Transport Authority
Forth Road Bridge Administrative Offices
Tel: 0131 319 1699
Humber Bridge (Near Hull) Exemption for those who receive the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance and who are exempt from the payment of Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax). Exemption vouchers are issued to the disabled person for use when crossing the bridge in their tax-exempt vehicle. Full details, including an application form are available can be found on the website. An application form can also be obtained in writing from:
Itchen Bridge (A3025: Woolston - Southampton)
Concessions available for those in receipt of the higher rate of mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance.
Tel: 023 8043 1040
M6 Motorway (Birmingham Toll)
The Mobility Exemption Pass is for the sole use on the M6 Toll and Allows free passage of the nominated vehicle only. If you think you may be eligible for a Mobility Exemption Pass, you must apply to Midland Express Limited as no other evidence of disability (e.g. a Blue Badge) can be accepted.
Organisations, recognised by the Secretary of State for Transport, which operate a vehicle for the carriage of disabled people can also use the motorway free of charge by applying in advance for a Mobility Exemption Pass.
Tel: 0870 850 6262
Mersey Tunnel (Liverpool - Birkenhead)
Concessions are available to individuals who are in receipt of the highest rate of Disability Living Allowance, or, if too old, the highest rate of Care Allowance. Full eligibility criteria and conditions of use are available can be found on the website. A 'Fast Tag' which can be shown at toll booths must be obtained in advance from:
Georges Dock Building
Tel: 0151 236 8602 (8.30 am - 4.45 pm Monday to Friday)
Fax: 0151 255 0610
Severn Bridge and Second Severn Crossing (M4/M48: North of Bristol)
Exemption for Blue Badge holders. You will need to hand your Blue Badge to the Toll Collector who will record the details and request the signature of the Blue Badge Holder (or the driver on behalf of the holder).
Now toll free to all users.
Tamar Bridge (A38) & Torpoint Ferry (A374)
A smartcard for disabled motorists is available for individuals who:
- receive the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance;
- receive War Pensioners Mobility Supplement;
- are exempt from the payment of Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax); and
- are registered blind.
Please note that:
An advance application for free vouchers must be made - an application form can be downloaded at www.tamarcrossings.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=24853&p=0.
Applications must be accompanied by a fee of £2.00 and passport photograph.
A smartcard will be issued giving 100 free crossings per year after proof of entitlement has been checked.
A stamped addressed envelope must accompany all enquiries.
Tay Road Bridge (Newport-on-Tay - Dundee)
Exemption for Blue Badge holders. You should show your badge at the toll booth.
Tyne Tunnel (Near Newcastle)
Exemption for those who are in receipt of the Higher Rate of Mobility Allowance issued by the Benefits Agency or War Pension Agency.
Whitchurch Bridge (B471: Pangbourne - Whitchurch)
The Company allows free crossings for disabled drivers who are in possession of a valid Vehicle Tax Exemption Certificate for their own vehicle, or who use a vehicle provided under the Motability scheme. To take advantage of this concession, disabled drivers need to pre-register with the Company using the Disabled Driver Registration Form which may be downloaded from the website or obtained on request from the Toll Collectors.
The Whitchurch Bridge Company
The Toll House
Whitney on Wye Bridge (B4350: Whitney - Hay-on-Wye)
Blue Badge holders can cross at half price
Parking in other countries
The Blue Badge parking concession is recognised throughout the member countries of the European Union (EU). However you should be aware that the concessions themselves vary from country to country - the UK-issued Blue Badge gives you the same parking concessions as those which apply to Blue Badge holders of the country you are visiting. However, before travelling to another country, you will need to read the rules in force in that country and, in some cases, you will need to ask for further information local to where you are travelling.
The AA Motoring Trust has produced an advice booklet on the parking concessions available to Blue Badge holders in 29 European countries. The booklet can be downloaded from the website of the Institute of Advance Motorists Motoring Trust (which is taking forward the work of the AA Motoring Trust) at: www.iam.org.uk/policy_and_research_misc/bluebadgeusersparkingineurope.html.
If you plan to drive in other countries where there are no reciprocal arrangements, you should take your Blue Badge with you and enquire at the local parking authority whether your Blue Badge will give you access to any local parking concessions.
Parking arrangements for disabled visitors to the UK
From the European Union (EU)
There is a reciprocal agreement between the EU and the UK to use respective disabled parking badges/permits. Therefore, if you are visiting the UK from any of the countries of the EU you can bring your own badge/permit with you.
From beyond the European Union (EU)
If you are visiting the UK from beyond the countries of the European Union, the use of your own disabled parking permit in the UK is at the discretion of each local authority.
Before travelling to the UK you will need to read the the rules in force, and in some cases you will need to ask for further information local to where you are travelling.
The Blue Badge (the UK name for the national Disabled Parking Permit) Enquiry Line suggests that you check with the each local authority for the area where you will be travelling.
A list of the contact details for all local authorities in the UK can be found at: www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/Localcouncils/index.htm.
Going on holidayFamilies with disabled children may be entitled to help from Social Services departments. Some authorities may provide grants towards holiday costs, others may offer holidays at places of their own choice. Grants may be subject to means testing and even when available, the amount is usually small. Further information on funding sources is available from Contact a Family at: www.cafamily.org.uk/holidays.html.
In and around London
Under UK law there is a national minimum 'travel permit' that local authorities have to provide as a concession to disabled and elderly people. The London boroughs have put in place schemes that exceed this minimum.
The most common scheme is the Freedom Pass. In addition, disabled residents of most boroughs can also apply for the London Taxicard which gives a limited amount of subsidised taxi travel.
The Freedom Pass is run by London Councils, formerly called the Association of London Government for the individual London boroughs. It gives free travel on buses, trains, trams, and Underground services in London. Although there are some restrictions on the routes and times that you can use it. The Freedom Pass also gives holders a discount on London River Services.
Holders of the Freedom Pass will also be entitled to the additional benefit of free local bus travel anywhere in England between 9.30am and 11.00pm. This additional benefit will be available to all freedom pass holders aged 60 or over, and most holders of the disabled person's freedom pass. A minority of disabled passes are issued at the discretion of the local borough council and so, under government legislation, will not be valid for use outside London.
More information about the Freedom Pass can be found at: www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/services/freedompass/default.htm.
The London Taxicard Scheme is also managed by London Councils. Taxicard is a method of providing subsidised door-to-door transport for people who have serious mobility impairment and difficulty in using public transport. Taxicard holders make journeys in licensed London taxis and a subsidy applies directly to each trip.
More information about the London Taxicard Scheme can be found at: www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/services/taxicard/default.htm.
More information about London Councils can be found at: www.londoncouncils.gov.uk.
It is important to remember that the Freedom Pass and the London Taxicard Scheme only apples to travel within London. For travel beyond London national schemes are available for rail and coach travel: the Disabled Persons Railcard and the National Express Disabled Persons Discount.