Please be aware that this travel advice has been collated from several sources, including Transport for London and National Rail. This advice was accurate at the time of writing (updated 20 July 2020) but could change at any time.
If you find yourself in a situation needing public transport to travel, then please follow government guidelines. Many people with a vision impairment rely upon assistance by train staff, station staff, verbal assistance from bus drivers or even members of the public, which on occasions, can be physical assistance as well.
With the type of support available and guidance and information being updated regularly, here are a few points on what you need to bear in mind when travelling on public transport:
1. Ensure that your journey is essential and only travel if you have no other choice. Have you considered alternative forms of transport? For example: taxi, minicab, using the taxi card scheme, asking a friend or family member or perhaps checking eligibility for hospital transport? However, if you do need to travel, please try to travel during off peak periods.
2. For many blind and partially sighted people, public transport is the only option. Please wear a face mask/covering if you can. If you cannot, then you can visit the Transport for London website and print out a badge which best describes your circumstances. This is for you to carry in case you are stopped. Simply show this badge without getting into a confrontation. You can access the badges by clicking here. You can print out the badge and display it on a lanyard or download it on to your smartphone to display when asked. If you don’t have a smartphone or printer you can contact TfL on 0343 222 1234 or via their Contact Us page and they will print one and send it out to you.
The UK Government has also produced a ‘Please give me space’ badge for people who struggle with social distancing. This badge can be used to show the carrier may have difficulties or concerns in maintaining social distancing. You can download them here.
3. Plan your journey. Most services are now running, but they could be limited during times, or perhaps a shorter service; so here are some links you can use to plan your journey below:
- Journey Planner
- Nearest Bus app – available from Apple App Store or Android Google Play
- Phone number – 0343 222 1234
4. If you are not normally an active cane user or a Guide Dog owner, carrying a symbol cane or using your long cane in these circumstances would really benefit you. Other people will then be aware of you and, therefore, support you in giving you space and help maintain social distancing. Staff will be more aware of you and not just on the transport network, but also in supermarkets etc. Please contact your local Rehab Officer who is based at the Sensory Team within your Local Authority, in the first instance, or the RNIB, if you would like further information on where to obtain and receive training on using a white cane.
5. Buses – if you need to travel by bus, the bus drivers are now behind a protective screen. They can support with verbal directions or information such as what the bus number is, or where the scanner to scan your pass is if you are struggling to locate it. They can advise on where the empty seats are to help ensure social distancing can be maintained. Please also bear in mind that the bus driver has the right to ask you to wait for the next bus if the bus has reached its maximum capacity. Buses are now operating using the front doors.
6. Train/Tube – If you need to travel by tube or train, please bear in mind that there will be a queuing system to enter the station but as a blind or partially sighted passenger, you are exempt from this rule. You can approach the front of the station without having to explain, on the basis you have a visible mobility aid.
You may be asked if you would like assistance or feel free to request it. If you are travelling with a sighted companion, this also applies to you both. You do not have to queue and you both will be let in and your companion can continue guiding you along the journey. The support being offered is that staff in first instance will provide sighted guiding assistance, they too will be wearing masks unless they are exempt and will be wearing protective gear.
If you are happy to be guided with verbal directions, then please do let the member of staff know and you can follow them instead. If you do need to go into a lift, they will press the button and wait for the doors to close, they will then use the stairs or escalators to meet you outside the lift doors again. If for any reason the staff feel that it is not safe to sight guide, then the offer of taxi will be available to your chosen end station.
7. Please do bear in mind that many station layouts have changed since the pandemic so please do ask for assistance even if you don’t usually. They can support with assisting you, help you maintain social distance, and with booking Turn Up & Go assistance ahead of your journey on that particular train, so that at the other end a member of staff will be there to meet you.
8. If you are travelling by National Rail, then please check timetables and book assistance in advance. Please check your travel plans getting to the station and at the other end too. If you are a Guide Dog user, please let them know in advance, so that they can allocate adequate seating.
9. If you need to travel by taxi or mini cab, please wear a face mask if you can, keep the windows open and check with the operator what guidelines they are adhering too.
10. Travel Mentoring Scheme – The scheme offers confidence building travelling across the network. You can find out more about the Scheme, book sessions, or get advice on planning your journey by bus or other TfL modes either by sending an email to email@example.com or calling 020 3054 4361. Find out more about Travel Mentoring here.
11. Dial-A-Ride – The Dial-A-Ride scheme is still operating but, as of 20 July, only during the hours of 8am-8pm; however, it is also operating on Sundays. It is currently limited to only one household or one person per journey. All staff are wearing PPE to allow them to assist customers safely. You can still book Dial A Ride for essential shopping and health Care appointments.
More information and eligibility criteria here.
- Please follow government guidelines and travel only if it is absolutely necessary.
- If you present symptoms of COVID-19, please do not travel.
- Try travelling during off-peak times to prevent the network from getting too crowded.
- Carry a bottle of water or snacks as well as wipes or hand sanitiser.
- Please allow more time to travel than usual – buses and trains are operating at lower capacity which means you may have to wait to board trains or buses that are less crowded.
Please bear in mind that street layouts in some areas have also changed. Some pavements have been widened to help pedestrians and cyclists social distance, and often they take up part of what was the road. This means that boarding a bus may now require walking down the kerb and into part of what was formerly the road. This may also mean that taxi ranks may have relocated too. Please also bear in mind that local shops may have queues outside, obstructing part of the pavement.
To check if your local streets have been affected, you can visit this link for more information.
These are the latest guidelines we have put together from policies and procedures put together by Transport for London. We are still waiting for official guidelines with regards to up to date information on which streets have been affected and future plans.