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Message from TfA Outgoing Director Faryal Velmi

Added: 22 February 2018 | Updated: 26 February 2018

Dear Members and Supporters

All good things come to an end. It’s been a pleasure and privilege to have worked at this vitally important charity for 14 years – 10 of those years as its Director. Over that time, I am immensely proud of the successes and the real changes we have won; to the way transport in this great city of ours is designed and run.

During my first year at TfA in 2004, I saw the last Routemaster bus being phased out – and the dream of a fully accessible bus service being turned into a reality. I remember the voices of those who were so pained at the passing of this iconic inaccessible bus that they said Disabled people had no rights to travel on public transport. That if older people couldn’t manage the step-up, they should stay at home.

Fast forward 14 years, I was at the Supreme Court with Doug Paulley. We had to go to the highest Court in the land where seven judges presided over whether a wheelchair user could take up the space that was designed for him! The ruling that was won on priority access was historic and I’m proud to have been a part of that campaign.

It was clear then as it’s clear now, the fight to take up our right to ride continues.

I am proud of the work we continue to do at Transport for All (TfA) to improve bus journeys for Disabled and older Londoners. By constantly raising complaints about bad services, lobbying and pressuring MPs, Assembly members, Councillors, TfL, and other decision makers to enforce and improve access; to push companies that earn handsome profits to respect the rights of their Disabled and older passengers. We talk about driverless cars yet we still seem light years away from getting the bus to pull up to the kerb.

Friends, knowledge is power – and I’m proud of the important work our helpline and advocacy services do to advise, inform and empower Disabled and older people to get out and about, tell them about their rights and what services they can use to get out and live, work and play their part in our Capital.

I’m proud of every Blue Badge, Freedom Pass, Taxicard, Dial-A-Ride that we have helped people get. I’ve always said that what we are about is options – and we want as many accessible options as possible for people to use. But in this era of cuts and austerity where sanctions and benefit cuts are hitting our people the hardest and the welfare state is under attack; this is proving a challenge.

However we know that it’s as important as ever to support people to take up the rights and services they are entitled to.

I started my time at TfA as a campaigner and have always been inspired by the tenacity and passion of our members. We are a unique organisation in that we have a sole focus on transport and our mission is to ensure that access remains a political and funding priority for those who run and plan transport services.

Faryal Velmi

Whether that’s taking a minister on a trip on the train, lobbying to get a question to the mayor, organising a flashmob or protest, or getting decision makers and those who run transport in front of our members – I’m proud of the many ways in which we have pushed, cajoled and fought for transport access.

There are so many campaigns to be proud of but I’ll mention just a few today.

Sick of Waiting; a campaign we did to highlight the problems with hospital patient transport across London – with the aim of raising standards and the quality of services provided. Too many Disabled and older people have to endure nightmare trips and long waiting times and we shone a light into this area and worked with a number of trusts to develop best practise.

Over my time at TfA we have done much work also to ensure that Taxicard and Dial-A-Ride - life line services – continue to be a properly funded, and resourced Cinderella service. In fact, it was my mum, a Taxicard member herself who first encouraged me to take up this job and I knew how important these services were and continue to be.

I’m proud that we are the only organisation in London that keeps an eagle eye on any changes to services and have reacted swiftly when there have been hints of any cuts. In 2018, we may have to react again as major changes are on the way for Taxicard.

Many of you were involved in our David and Goliath battle to make Crossrail step free – this 15 billion pound railway that was originally planned without lifts and step-free access at every station. Through a sustained campaign of lobbying, protests and harnessing the power of the media, we forced a U-turn. A proud moment for TfA and one that will go down in the history books.

However, as we learn that original timetables for the introduction of Crossrail have slipped, it seems that the Crossrail campaign will have a part 2.

Recently, I am proud that we have been the organisation that has pressured the Department for Transport and held them to account on their scandalous decision to suspend the Access For All fund – the pot of money that funds everything from tactile paving to lifts at railway stations. We campaign on this because, as the country that developed the steam engine and the modern railway, the inaccessibility of our rail stations in London and the UK is shocking.

I am also really proud of the successful Disability Equality Training (DET) business that TfA has built up over the last four years. We all know how crucial it is to have visible trained staff who are willing to assist if they are needed. For that end our DET work – rooted in the Social Model of Disability – has really had an impact on winning the hearts and minds of transport staff managers so that they better understand the needs of their Disabled and older customers.

We are a movement.

As my time at TfA comes to an end, I think what I most proud of is the community of members we have built here at TfA - that’s you. Without you, none of our successes would have been possible.

We are more than another charity, another DPO, another group. We are a movement. A movement that is needed now more than ever. In 2018, in one of the richest cities in the world, too many Disabled and older people still have to limit their lives, turn down jobs, miss out on time with family and friends, because there’s no lift at their local Tube/Rail stations, couldn’t get a Dial-A-Ride trip, a Taxi was too expensive, or have had the confidence knocked out of them.

We are the people who can change that.

If every member recruited another or every supporter joined us, we would double our membership, our reach and our power over night! As the saying goes – If it’s not us, then who? and if not now, then when?

There are many people to thank – all the trustees and staff whose talent, commitment and hard work pushes TfA forward. I wish TfA’s new Director April Clifford, and the new trustees, all the very best as they start a new chapter in TfA‘s History.

Thank you!


Outgoing TfA Director

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