‘Discrimination’ as trams ban mobility scooters

Tom Gilzean will be unable to get on the trams because, according to council bosses, they have been designed only to accommodate normal wheelchairs. Picture: Jane Barlow

Tom Gilzean will be unable to get on the trams because, according to council bosses, they have been designed only to accommodate normal wheelchairs. Picture: Jane Barlow

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MOBILITY scooters will be banned from the trams as they are deemed to take up too much space, the Evening News can reveal.

The trams are expected to begin accepting fare-paying passengers from the end of May. However, one group of city residents will be left at the ­platform.

The disabled scooters won’t be allowed on board because they are considered too bulky –despite the trams being purposefully built to have wide, accommodating aisles and space.

Disability campaigners have hit out at the divisive plan labelling it “an outrage” and “outright discrimination”.

And champion fundraiser and 92-year-old war-veteran scooter user, Tom Gilzean, has decalred the move as “a slap in the face”.

Tram bosses have been keen to point out that wheelchair users and buggies will be allowed on, but due to their size and large turning circle mobility scooters will not.

Charlie McMillan, director of services and development with disabled rights group Disability Scotland, believes such sizing will also rule out most electric wheelchairs.

He said: “Mobility scooters are actually small compared to most electric wheelchairs. This is discrimination at the end of the day.

“You would think that in 2014 a large public transport system such as this would be able to accept all passengers and be fully accessible. ­Disabled people have every right to enjoy the city the same as everyone else.”

He added: “It feels very counter-intuitive to build a tram line offering public transport to the city but deny access to those who are the most ­vulnerable in society.”

This view is echoed by Mr Gilzean, who said: “I had been looking forward to boarding a tram, this is really poor form.

“They should have ensured that everyone could enjoy the tram and be able to get on and off it, they’ve spent enough on it.”

Manchester’s Metrolink had also banned ­mobility scooters. But earlier this month – after four years of campaigning – disabled rights’ campaigners were victorious in forcing a change. Users can now apply for a permit to board the service.

Margaret Wilson of Shopmobility Edinburgh, who rents scooters to city centre users, said: “If people can board in Manchester I don’t see why they can’t do the same in ­Edinburgh.”

She added: “We have a lot of tourists hiring our scooters to get about, the first thing they are going to want to do is ride the tram down Princes Street.”

A council spokeswoman told how each tram will have ­dedicated wheelchair spaces with street-level boarding and priority seating.

She added: “As with buses in the city, mobility scooters will not be permitted on trams because of space and in the interests of safety. The designated spaces are designed for wheelchair dimensions.”

The wheel deal

MANCHESTER’S tram ban on mobility scooters was enforced in 2000.

It has been challenged but scooter owners still face an onerous process to be allowed to take their essential kit on board.

To be eligible for the Manchester scheme users must hold a National Concessionary Travel Scheme Disabled Person’s Pass. Scooters must then meet set conditions, including size and turning circle, for safe use in and around the network in order to qualify. Customers are also assessed, in a process supported by Shopmobility Manchester, to ensure they can safely manoeuvre their approved scooter around and within a tram’s wheelchair space and the network’s raised platforms. Once they have passed this assessment they are issued a picture ID permit. A list of approved makes and models has also been compiled.

A Westminster report revealed, of 300 scooter types, at least 22 models could be accommodated on public transport.