Changes to community transport services
Most passenger journeys on community transport stopped during COVID-19 lockdown.
From the 1st July 2020 a limited DATS and rural community transport service has restarted. The service is for essential journeys only and there are a number of restrictions and requirements for passengers.
To find out more visit the Disability Action website.
Contact details for your local Rural Community Transport Partnership is available from the NI Direct website.
Shopping and medication delivery service
Community transport operators are still offering a food and medication pick up and delivery service during lockdown. You do not have to be a member to use this service.
COVID-19 Guidance for safer travel
The Government has now published advice for safer travel during COVID-19 as restrictions are eased. This is available on the NI Direct website.
Face Coverings when using transport
From the 10th July 2020 passengers using public transport and community transport services will be required to wear a face covering.
There are exemptions to these rules for disabled people who find wearing a face covering very difficult or impossible.
You can find out more about the new regulations and exemptions from the NI Direct website.
What is community transport
Community transport is a general term covering a range of providers. It provides not for profit transport services usually meeting the needs of a community not met by other providers.
In Northern Ireland there are many small community transport providers including community groups, churches, scout groups etc.. There are also two Government funded services provided by community transport.
Disability Action Transport Services or DATS
DATS is a service that provides transport for disabled people in large towns in Northern Ireland with a population of more than 10,000.
The service is run by Disability Action with the support of Rural Community Transport Partnerships (see below) in some areas and Bridge Accessible Transport in Derry/Londonderry.
For more information on DATS visit the Disability Action website.
Rural Community Transport Partnerships
There are 11 Rural Community Transport Partnerships in Northern Ireland providing a range of services to rural communities, smaller towns and villages. Services include providing transport to groups and to individuals through a service called Dial-a-Lift. Dial-a-Lift provides a local door to door transport service for disabled people and others.
For details of all the Rural Community Transport Partnerships and how to contact them visit the NI Direct website.
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and community transport
You have no rights under the Disability Discrimination Act when traveling using community transport, including DATS and rural Dial-a-Lift.
Community transport providers do have to make information about their services accessible to you.
The Consumer Council
If you have any issues or problems using community transport the Consumer Council may be able to help.
Visit the Consumer Council website.
DATS is a membership scheme and you will have to meet eligibility criteria and complete and application form to use the service.
Further details and an application form can be downloaded from the Disability Action website.
Rural Dial-a-Lift eligibility
Rural Dial-a-Lift is a membership scheme and you must meet the eligibility criteria to use the service. This criteria may be different depending on your local operator.
For contact details for the Rural Community Transport Partnerships visit the NI Direct website.
Operators of community transport services use a range of vehicles to deliver their services including:
- Wheelchair accessible minibuses
- Wheelchair accessible taxis
- Ordinary cars driven by volunteer drivers – this is called a social car scheme
Most of the wheelchair accessible vehicles have stepped entrances and a rear tail lift. You should be clear about what sort of vehicle you require when joining the schemes.
Operational times for DATS and rural Dial-a-Lift vary but in general are available Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. There are no weekend services on Dial-a-Lift and a limited weekend service with DATS.
Both services must be booked in advance. Although this can be different from operator to operator, usually 7 days notice is required.
Generally you will only be able to travel within your own local area and restrictions can apply to journeys to health or hospital appointments.
Generally both DATS and Dial-a-lift services are over-subscribed. This means there are too many people wanting to use the service. This can make it difficult for new people to make booking or for people to book regular or specific journeys. If you can be flexible about when you travel you are more likely to able to make a booking.
If you have a free or half-fare SmartPass you can use this on Dial-a-lift.
You cannot use your SmartPass on DATS. DATS costs £2.50 per trip (£5 return journey).
For more information on the Concessionary Fares Scheme visit the NI Direct website.
Community transport is delivered by drivers who are paid and others who are volunteers. All drivers should have been trained to provide assistance to passengers to help them use the service including how to use safety equipment on-board vehicles.
Assistance on services
Drivers should provide you with assistance to us community transport services including:
- Making you aware they have arrived (not just blaring the horn)
- Assisting you to get on and off the vehicle including deploying steps or ramps
- Ensuring you are safe and secure on the vehicle including using any safety equipment
- Safely store lightweight mobility equipment and other items such as luggage or shopping
- Ensuring they drop you off in a safe place at your destination.
Limits to assistance
Drivers should never lift you or heavy mobility equipment.
You can use your free or half fare SmartPass on rural Dial-a-Lift.
You cannot use your free or half fare SmartPass on DATS.
For more information on discounted travel visit the NI Direct website.