It wants this implemented for blind and partially sighted people and their companions
MSPs are being challenged to back a campaign calling for free rail fares for blind and partially sighted people and their companions.
Sight Scotland, and Sight Scotland Veterans want to new national policy because of inconsistencies across Scotland in concessions.
Freedom of information requests made by the charities revealed that while most local authorities and Strathclyde Passenger Transport offer free or discounted rail travel for the companions of blind or partially sighted people, only seven said they offered a discount to companions, and none offered free companion travel.
They also found public information about concessionary schemes and companion discounts is misleading and is causing confusion to both passengers and rail staff.
The calls have already got backing from some MSPs. Graham Simpson, shadow minister for transport, said: “A lack of national policy for free rail travel for companions of blind and partially sighted people is causing anguish for passengers and rail staff.
“It’s clear to me that having a companion can ultimately make the difference of someone being able to make a journey or not at all. I thank Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans for bringing this important issue to my attention and I will be urging members to back the calls for a national policy to take steps towards a more equitable and accessible rail network across Scotland for everyone who uses it.”
Craig Spalding, chief executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, added: “We are urging MSPs to back our Fair Rail Campaign. For most people living with a visual impairment, public transport is the only means they have to make journeys around the country. Driving a car is no longer, or indeed has never been, an option so local transport networks and Scotland’s rail network play a crucial part in enabling independence in the community.
“Unfortunately for many blind and partially sighted people travelling without a companion is just not an option, and the costs to pay fares is too much. This is a great opportunity to create a rail network in Scotland which is inclusive and meets the needs of everyone in society.”
Amanda Whitfield, from West Lothian, has a visual impairment and relies on public transport for herself and her young daughter. She explains: “I go everywhere by bus only because of the free companion travel. I would rather take the train as the bus can be so unreliable, especially in the darker nights, which reduces what vision I do have even more. I’d take the train more if I could, but with the cost of living it is too expensive to always pay the fare for my companion and I can’t expect my sister or whoever is with me to pick up the cost. If we could get free companion travel on the trains like what we have on the bus, it would make life so much easier.”
To find out more about the campaign and how to get involved, go to sightscotland.org.uk/FairRail.