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Public transport 'must be flexible'

Published 3 Sep 2008
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The UK's urban transport system needs overhauling in order to cope with an ageing population, according to research from Newcastle University. The research indicates that older people are among the most socially excluded members of society and access to transport is a key factor.

The aptly named Dr Jenny Brake will be presenting her findings at the Urban Transport Conference in Malta next week.

She has found that bookable transport services such as dedicated taxis and designated 'shopping buses' operating in the North East are heading in the right direction, but better communication is required to ensure they are reaching those most in need.

Dr Brake said: "We often speak about older people being isolated from public transport if they live in rural areas, but it can be just as much of a problem in the city. If you can't physically get to your local bus stop then it doesn't matter how good the service is."

This research shows that the current generation of older people has enjoyed high car ownership, resulting in many people who have no idea how to access public transport, particularly bus services, or are unaware of alternatives such as car sharing clubs.

Dr Brake said: "We should be asking people what they need. This will vary from county to county, between cities and even within cities. Local authorities and operators can then decide how best to use their resources."

In the North East, schemes such as Hop to the Shops, which has been running since the beginning of last year, are helping to fill the gap in public transport provision for older people who do not have access to a car and need very good customer care. Hop to the Shops offers a door-to-door service to major shopping centres for older people, mainly from residential homes.

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