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The National Centre for Accessible Transport (ncat): improving transport accessibility

By Le Ho-Everiste 8 September 2023 4 minute read

Why we chose to fund an evidence centre for transport accessibility 

Research shows that disabled people face entrenched disadvantage in access to transport, and that this disadvantage impacts their mobility, wellbeing, economic contribution and quality of life. A wide range of public and charitable programmes aim to address these challenges, but there is still a lack of specific and robust evidence of what is going wrong, what solutions are needed for different groups of people across different modes of transport, and what existing best practice should be scaled.  

At the Motability Foundation, we are building a future where all disabled people have the transport options to make the journeys they choose. Right now, disabled people make 38% fewer journeys than non-disabled people – a figure that hasn’t changed in the past decade (The Transport Accessibility Gap, 2022). This ‘transport accessibility gap’ tells us that there is much more that transport providers need to do to ensure that disabled people can travel across pavements, road, rail, and air with ease. The advancement of digital technology and the transition to electric, connected, and autonomous vehicles means that transport is rapidly changing. Considering the move towards electric vehicle and technology advancements, we want to ensure that disabled people are not left behind in this transition. 

The transport needs of disabled people are as diverse as those of non-disabled people and there is no other evidence centre in the UK that focusses exclusively on disability and transport. Ensuring the transition to net zero considers the accessibility of disabled people is both key to supporting the UK’s environmental objectives, and key to ensuring that disabled people are benefitted and not adversely impacted by the shift to greener modes of transport. 

Economic analysis estimates that there is a £72bn annual socio-economic benefit opportunity of completely closing the “transport accessibility gap” for disabled people in the UK*. Even a 1% improvement on closing the accessibility gap would result in a sizable level and range of social economic benefits to disabled peoples’ improved health and wellbeing, access to employment and access to education.  This presents a crucial opportunity to transform the lives of disabled people, closing the “transport accessibility gap” and unlocking significant socio-economic value. 

Embedding lived experiences of disability and impact into the competition process and design 

We established a competition process to appoint a consortium who would run the evidence centre independently. Through targeted market engagement, the competition attracted interest from across the transport and disability sectors. These new connections and new relationships are vitally important for making transport more inclusive and more strategically aligned. We worked with a panel of competition advisors; experts from research and development, policy, charity, and disability sector backgrounds, who advised us on the competition design, principles, practices and the grant applications we received. 

By considering impact from the beginning, representation of lived experience of disability became a key thread during the course of the competition process and was embedded into the competition design. This included representation of lived experience on the selection panel, on the panel of competition advisors, and within the applying consortiums’ organisational structures. A fundamental application measure was the involvement of people with lived experience of disability in the development of expressions of interest, in the final applications and most importantly, in the applicants’ proposed governance and delivery models.  

Get involved in the UK’s first evidence centre for transport accessibility 

As NPC have explored previously in their report ’Towards an evidence-led social sector, we know that as a charity, effectively using evidence can increase the positive impact we have on our beneficiaries.  

We awarded Coventry University, and consortium partners RiDC, Designability, Connected Places Catapult, Policy Connect, WSP UK, grant funding of £20 million over seven years to develop and run the National Centre for Accessible Transport (ncat) with the aim to transform the transport sector’s understanding of disabled people’s lived experiences. Led by Professor Paul Herriotts, NCAT will aim to improve the accessibility and reliability of transport for disabled people. NCAT will undertake research, find and develop transport solutions, whilst also promoting the application of research insights to political and operational-level stakeholders.  

At the Motability Foundation, we have established an ongoing independent Advisory Committee to advise us as the funder and to help us to establish key ways of working to maximise the impact of ncat across the whole transport eco-system. Meanwhile, consortium partner Policy Connect has worked with key stakeholders to set up a policy commission, which is being launched this week with a parliamentary event to move forward with goals of the Centre. 

Note: Motability Foundation is the operating name of Motability. Motability Foundation changed its name to Motability Foundation on 29 August 2023 with the purpose of increasing awareness of its wider remit of grant-giving, research and innovation, and to make it easier for disabled people and organisations to find and access the support it provides. 

To sign up for the research panel or for more details on how to be involved visit the ncat website. 


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