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TRANSPORT OPERATORS URGED TO PROVIDE FREE TRAVEL FOR BLIND

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Scottish transport minister Henry McLeish has today called on public transport operators to offer free concessionar...
Scottish transport minister Henry McLeish has today called on public transport operators to offer free concessionary travel for the blind on their services.

The government is committed to tackling the transport problems faced by disabled people - and the minister urged all operators to follow suit and face up to their social obligations.

Mr McLeish told guests and delegates at Fife Council's Getting About in Fife conference in Dunfermline:

'This government is very much committed to partnership and we want transport operators to help us address social exclusion from transport services which still affects many blind people. I am calling on them to introduce a free concessionary travel scheme which will go some way to helping blind people enjoy a better quality of life.

'It is wrong to always look to Government for solutions to problems faced by society - we want businesses to come forward with innovative ideas and help us solve problems in partnership. Transport operators should look to the excellent lead recently given by BP, which cut the price of petrol by 2p a gallon in rural areas. That is the kind of project we are keen to encourage.

'This Government is very much alive to the transport needs of disabled people. We have also just pledged to spend #600,000 on funding community transport measures, and many of the projects which will benefit when we distribute the monies will help disabled people travel around Scotland more freely.

'The government will also build on the transport aspects of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 when we publish the integrated transport white paper in the summer. This will be the most significant single event in post-war Scottish transport and will put in place the framework for a modern, environmentally-friendly transport infrastructure to address the needs of Scots.

'As a local MP, I am also well aware that an effective transport infrastructure is essential to Fife's economy, which is dependent for its success on good access to labour, markets and suppliers. But transport is also about people and this Government's intention is that transport policy should fundamentally be about meeting people's needs and establishing an integrated transport system which is accessible to the maximum number of people. We must create a range of policies which enable the most effective solutions to be delivered at local level to combat social exclusion from transport services.'

NOTES

1. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 provides, amongst a whole range of issue affecting disabled persons, powers for specific regulations covering transport vehicles which will require new vehicles or, in the case of taxis, newly-licensed vehicles, to be fully accessible to disabled people. Consolation exercises are underway about the content of the related regulations and the timetable for implementation.

2. Fife Council's conference, Getting About in Fife, was held in the Glen Pavilion, Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline and was aimed at discussing access and mobility issues in the Kingdom.

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