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How can we reduce transport barriers for Middlesbrough residents?

Transport means a lot of things to a lot of different people. But how much of an issue is it for some people? For me personally, it is quite a big component of my daily living and how I go about my life. I rely on public transport to get to work, to visit family and to do the activities I want to do. I regularly use buses or train services to get to where I need to be, luckily for me I do not have any barriers preventing me from using public transport so largely this isn’t a huge issue. It has its good days and it has its bad days. On the good days, you will get to where you want in a timely manner and go about your day. However, if I did have barriers in using these services such as; anxiety, depression, not enough money, a disability, a wheelchair user, living in an area with limited timetables, dyslexia, lack of confidence; to name a few my quality of life would be very different.

Transport is something so much deeper than just getting from point A to point B. For some people, it is a means of being able to see a loved one or family member, for some their health is dependent on travelling to GP’s and hospitals, for others it is their way to get to work and support their household. It has a different meaning for everyone. The government this year has outlined their new transport strategy to make travel more inclusive for disabled passengers. You can see these proposals here.

When the transport system is having a ‘bad day’- delays, not turning up at all, overcrowded etc., my mind wanders to travelling around London using their underground or when I was in Amsterdam using their nationalised train, tram and metro services. All of these services providing links to key locations and running to almost perfection; on time, accessible, clean and value for money.

What's wrong with transport in Middlesbrough

A stark contrast to the one train every half an hour to Middlesbrough from Redcar. Or the bus where on many occasions I’ve had to stand due to seats being covered in all kinds of dirt. It is so frustrating to have this kind of service when they have Metro services in Newcastle and Sunderland – literally a few miles away - and the underground in London. Why don’t we have a model like this? And how much of a great impact would it have for our local area? I feel it would connect so many people, provide a lifeline for some people and help tackle a lot of the isolation experienced across generations of Middlesbrough residents.

Lack of access and social isolation

This subject is one quite close to me, I'm very passionate about how the models work and operate so it can help people with their day to day lives. I have seen firsthand how lack of access to transport services can impact on people’s lives and agitate their social isolation – a subject that is increasingly getting the attention of health and social care professionals and widespan media coverage. Social isolation can affect people of all ages, from any background. Studies have previously focused on the experiences and drastic impact social isolation can have on older people however we are now seeing a rise in the number of reports focused on recognising how younger people are increasingly experiencing social isolation i.e The Co-op Foundation’s latest report on Youth Loneliness.

Barriers in being able to access local transport can only exasperate social isolation which we know has a huge impact on people’s mental health. Improvements in transport models could, therefore, ease some of the strains on mental health services, many of which are at capacity with lengthening waiting lists. I am aware these are big multifaceted issues and I'm not suggesting social isolation can simply be solved by improving the local transport offer. However, I've always been a believer in every action has a reaction no matter how big or small, and in this case, a few small changes could lead to some big positive changes.

Our workshop on local transport

I'm organising a workshop to generate discussion looking at local transport, to see what is working well and what isn’t and whether there are things we can do collectively to improve existing services, implement new or think completely differently as means to reducing transport barriers for many Middlesbrough residents.

The initial workshop will be invite only, however, please get in touch if this discussion is something you would like to be part of.

Matt Blackburn

MVDA

Engagement & Development Worker (Community Connect)

Email: matthew.blackburn@mvdauk.org.uk