Travel

Many thanks to the frequent traveller Serena Cant for sharing this information with CI South West! 

Deaf people are entitled to concessionary discounts on travel, both before and after being implanted with a CI, in the same way as anyone with other disabilities or impairments. Your entitlement does not change following implantation, because it is based on your level of hearing loss. Any documentary proof of eligibility required when applying, such as an audiogram, should demonstrate your unaided hearing loss (without CI or HA).

These travel discounts can be very useful to reduce the cost of travelling for CI assessments, the operation, and post-implant mappings - and of course to come to the regular CI South West socials!

This page describes the three main concessionary travel passes available in England and gives hints, tips and links for getting the most out of public transport as a deaf traveller.

Rail:

What is the Disabled Person's Railcard?

The Disabled Persons' Railcard entitles you to ⅓ off rail travel when travelling alone, and when travelling with a companion, that person can also travel for ⅓ off. The companion can be anyone and does not need to be the same person every time - they can be your spouse/partner, a friend or a colleague. However, if you travel with a companion on your railcard you must travel together on both the outward and return journeys for the railcard discount to apply to your tickets.

You must show your railcard when purchasing tickets in person or tick the box for the railcard when purchasing online tickets, and you must show your railcard and tickets together when checked by the train manager.

How much does it cost?

£20 for one year or £54 for a three year railcard.

Who is it for?


The railcard is printed with all the different internationally recognised disability symbols on it, so it's also useful for showing proof of disability if required.

How do I apply?


What are the benefits compared to other railcards?

Other concessionary cards are available, but the Disabled Persons' card offers the best all-round value in terms of its purchase price, flexibility, and benefits and does not require photo ID. All other railcards cost £30 plus photo ID: the Young Persons' and Senior Citizen's Railcards limit the travel discount to the cardholder only, while the Two Together Railcard is similar in concept to the Disabled Person's card, but is also priced at £30 and is less flexible: it restricts the companion discount to one named companion only, for whom photo ID is also required.
  
Hints and tips for rail travel:

Booking assistance:

Disabled and elderly travellers are entitled to book assistance anywhere on the rail network to assist with difficulties in travelling independently (e.g. hearing announcements, getting off at the right station.) There is no extra charge for this service, but book at least 24 hours in advance. You can reserve a priority access seat for yourself and a hearing or other assistance dog, if you have one.

To request this service, the two main operators in CI South West's region, Cross Country Trains and Great Western Railway, have deaf-friendly contact details, which are as follows:

Cross Country JourneyCare can be contacted by a dedicated textphone (minicom, qwertyphone, etc.) on 0344 811 0126 and by e-mail at journeycare@crosscountrytrains.co.uk

Great Western Railway allows booking through an online form.

Both companies have published access policy statements on how they look after their disabled customers, including deaf and hard of hearing travellers:



At the station:

If you are travelling from or to an unfamiliar station, it can be very helpful to familiarise yourself with the station in advance as this makes travelling less stressful, especially if you are dependent on the screens for information. It can also be very helpful if you have other needs, such as vision or mobility impairments. Station maps and other details are available via http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/

There are usually ‘all platform’ departure screens near the entrance or on the concourse before reaching the platforms. On the platform, there will be individual departure boards for that platform which provide the same information as the announcements: time, platform number, destinations, and delay (if any). Every platform should have at least one ‘all platforms’ screen which will advertise any last minute platform changes.  

The tannoy announcements are usually spoken by different voices for different platforms, alternately male and female, to make it easier to distinguish relevant announcements.

Platform staff are there to help and will advise you if you are unsure whether to board a particular train.

On board the train:

It can help to familiarise yourself with the timetable, so that you know what time you are expected to arrive at your destination station. Timetables are readily available from stations and online.

At the time of writing (March 2017) Great Western trains do not display destination screens on board trains. Cross Country trains display destination information on dot matrix screens at the carriage ends and display the name of each stop on approaching. Some other railway companies such as Abellio Greater Anglia will also display the expected duration of any delays on the carriage dot matrix screens where these have been installed on the train (but they will not tell you the reason for the delay). 

Ask the train manager when he or she comes round, if you are unsure of anything, e.g. time of arrival or reason for delay, if any. If you are travelling with a Disabled Persons’ Railcard, they may ask you when they check your ticket if you need any extra assistance (whether you have booked it or not). They are looking out for their disabled customers but this question can take deaf people by surprise, so it does help to anticipate their asking you this question to smooth conversations with the train manager.

If you have difficulty hearing announcements at the platform or on board, the platform or on board screens are down, or in the event of delay while travelling, one very useful website is Realtime Trains. Enter in your departure or destination station for up-to-date information, which should show the length of any delay on any service you search for.

In the event of serious delays on board, most rail companies make real-time announcements and answer queries live via Twitter. It’s a very accessible medium for deaf people to find out information on board. You can access and read Twitter without having an account, but to ask questions an account is necessary (it’s free to join up). Remember that you can only use up to 140 characters per message.

Useful Twitter contacts are @crosscountryUK and @GWRHelp. When making enquiries let them know the details of the service you are on, e.g. 09.02 BPW-PAD

Getting around London:

If your rail ticket involves transit through London, the Tube fare between stations is automatically included.

For day trips and longer stays in London, purchase an Oyster card at any Tube station and take your railcard to a Tube ticket office to register your railcard against the Oyster card to obtain ⅓ off Tube, DLR and National Rail fares within London for yourself or select the railcard option when purchasing an Oyster fare at a ticket machine.
Except for Off-Peak Day Travelcards Zones 1-6, when a companion can also travel for ⅓ off, no companion discounts are available in the Greater London area.
Travel by London bus, is, however, free for holders of local authority bus passes (see Bus section).


Coach:

What is the Disabled Coach Card?

The Disabled Coach Card entitles you to ⅓ off National Express coach journeys.

How much does it cost?

By post: £10 for one year + £2 postage;
In person at a National Express office (usually at major bus stations): free  

Who is it for?

Deaf and hard-of-hearing people are entitled to apply for a card. National Express' Code of Practice for Disabled Travellers gives further details on eligibility.


How do I apply?


Hints and tips for coach travel:

At the bus or coach station:

Departure screens will display the time, number, and bay to board your bus. Unlike buses, coaches do not usually have on-board screens displaying destination information, so, when you board the coach, let the driver know you are deaf if you are concerned about missing your stop, as he or she will make sure you get off at the correct destination on request.

The National Express website publishes timetables for all routes with the names and locations of each stop: sometimes, especially in smaller places, the coach stop may be at the roadside rather than a bus station. Again, ask the driver to come and get you if you are unsure if a particular stop is your stop.

You can follow the route of the coach and know when your stop is approaching by using the live Coach Tracker website, using your ticket number or coach service number to identify your journey. This very helpful website allows you to identify your destination independently and posts real-time information, including any delays caused by roadworks or accidents, for example.

Bus:

What is the Diamond Travelcard?

The Diamond Card, also known as a Diamond Bus Pass or Disabled Buss Pass, is a national scheme permitting free concessionary off-peak travel on buses anywhere in England, usually after either 9am or 9.30am all day, with no restrictions at weekends.

There are two versions of the Diamond Card, one for senior citizens and one for disabled people below retirement age. It is a national scheme, but is administered by local authorities.

The card is valid in your local area and in all other English local authorities, including London. It is not valid in the other home nations, with minor exceptions: for example, you may be able to travel for free into Wales on a bus journey originating in England, but you will have to pay for your return journey home from Wales (and vice versa for Welsh cards).

They are also not valid on some special bus services, such as the Bristol Flyer airport bus from Temple Meads to Bristol Airport or on coaches (to which the separate coach card applies). In some areas the card may permit travel at peak hours at a reduced rate, but this concession varies from authority to authority.

If you are deaf-blind, or have another disability in addition to deafness which makes independent travel difficult or impossible, some local authorities also permit you to apply for a concessionary pass which also allows a companion to travel with you free of charge, but this again varies from authority to authority.

How much does it cost?

Free (+ cost of photos)


How do I apply?

Apply through your local authority, who set the criteria for who is eligible and which forms of documentation they will accept as proof of eligibility within their catchment area.

Just as each local authority can vary the hours during which the pass is valid in their area, they also set their own criteria for eligibility, documentary proof, and application processes. Check with your authority (list below) for full details.

For example, they may set a specific level of hearing loss in dB to be eligible for a pass. For documentary proof of your disability, they may request proof of registration with local social services, a copy of your hearing aid book or an audiogram and report from a medical professional such as your GP or audiologist. Some councils ask you to apply in person, others have an online application process.

Links to application processes for local authorities covered by CI South West's catchment area are listed below:










Hints and tips for bus travel:

Modern buses run by the major operators often have display screens inside the bus, displaying stop information run at the same time as the tannoy experiment, which is very useful in unfamiliar locations. 

If you are using a Diamond card, you can travel anywhere in England for free, so you do not usually need to state your destination on boarding, but it can help to tell the driver where you're going and ask them to let you off at the correct stop if you're not familiar with the route.  


One of the major bus companies in CI South West's catchment area is First, who have introduced cards with pre-printed messages allowing you to discreetly show the driver your needs, without the whole bus becoming aware of it, e.g. you can show that you are a lipreader so that the bus driver faces you when speaking. These Safe Journey and Better Journey cards can be downloaded from the First Bristol and West website

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