Disabled woman abandons court appeal over bus 'discrimination'

Arriva bus
Image caption Arriva's policy means wheelchair users do not have priority over other passengers

A disabled woman has abandoned her legal case against a bus company over its policy on wheelchair spaces.

Jane Elliott claimed disabled people were disadvantaged as Arriva North East allows spaces to be used by passengers on a "first come first served basis".

Her solicitors said she was forced to drop the case because of legal cost reforms which leave claimants "at a substantial personal financial risk".

Arriva said it was "committed to making buses as accessible as possible".

The firm's policy means wheelchair users do not have priority over other passengers, such as those with pushchairs.

Mrs Elliott, 60, of Darlington, was due to have her test case heard at the Court of Appeal in London in November.

Liable for costs

She alleged she had been unable to board some buses because the disabled bay was occupied.

Her legal representative, Chris Fry, of Unity Law, said the case's collapse was due to civil costs reforms introduced in April 2013 which meant Ms Elliott would be liable for Arriva's costs - said to be £150,000 - in the event she was unsuccessful.

The appeal was in response to a ruling at Middlesbrough County Court which said the firm had "not breached the Equality Act" and chair users were not at "substantial disadvantage".

Nigel Featham, Arriva North East's regional managing director, said: "We are always open and willing to discuss issues affecting people with disabilities.

"We were disappointed this matter ever went to court but welcomed Judge Bowers' decision when it was issued in May 2013."

Another case, against First Bus Group, will still go ahead.

In September 2013, a judge ruled its "first come first served" policy substantially disadvantaged wheelchair users and was unlawful discrimination in breach of the Equality Act.

First Bus Group is appealing and a ruling is due in November.

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