chapter 5 section 7
Trains, buses and coaches For information about trains telephone the National Rail Enquiry Service 08457 48 49 50, or visit www.nationalrail.co.uk . For trains in Northern Ireland, phone Translink on 028 90 66 66 30 or visit: www.translink.co.uk . For information about local bus times phone 0870 608 250. For information on coaches, telephone National Express on 08705 80 80 80, or visit www.nationalexpress.com . For coaches in Scotland, telephone Scottish Citylink on 08705 50 50 50 or visit: www.citylink.co.uk . For Northern Ireland, visit: www.translink.co.uk .
Usually, tickets for trains and underground systems such as the London Underground must be bought before you get on the train. The fare varies according to the day and time you wish to travel. Travelling in the rush hour is always more expensive. Discount tickets are available for families, people aged 60 and over, disabled people, students and people under 26. Ask at your local train station for details. Failure to buy a ticket may result in a penalty.
Taxis To operate legally, all taxis and minicabs must be licensed and display a licence plate. Taxis and cabs with no licence are not insured for fare-paying passengers and are not always safe. Women should not use unlicensed minicabs.
Driving You must be at least 17 to drive a car or motorcycle, 18 to drive a medium-sized lorry, and 21 to drive a large lorry or bus. To drive a lorry, minibus or bus with more than eight passenger seats, you must have a special licence.
The driving licence You must have a driving licence to drive on public roads. To get a driving licence you must pass a test. There are many driving schools where you can learn with the help of a qualified instructor.
You get a full driving licence in three stages:
• Apply for a provisional licence. You need this licence while you are learning to drive. With this you are allowed to drive a motorcycle up to 125cc or a car. You must put L plates on the vehicle, or D plates in Wales. Learner drivers cannot drive on a motorway. If you drive a car, you must be with someone who is over 21 and who has had a full licence for over three years. You can get an application form for a provisional licence from a post office.
• Pass a written theory test.
• Pass a practical driving test.
Drivers may use their licence until they are 70. After that the licence is valid for three years at a time.
In Northern Ireland, a newly-qualified driver must display an R-Plate (for registered driver) for one year after passing the test.
Overseas licences If your driving licence is from a country in the European Union (EU), Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, you can drive in the UK for as long as your licence is valid.
If you have a licence from a country outside the EU, you may use it in the UK for up to 12 months. During this time you must get a UK provisional driving licence and pass both the UK theory and practical driving tests, or you will not be able to drive after 12 months.
Insurance It is a criminal offence to have a car without proper motor insurance. Drivers without insurance can receive very high fines. It is also illegal to allow someone to use your car if they are not insured to drive it.
Road tax and MOT You must also pay a tax to drive your car on the roads. This is called road tax. Your vehicle must have a road tax disc which shows you have paid. You can buy this at the post office. If you do not pay the road tax, your vehicle may be clamped or towed away.
If your vehicle is over three years old, you must take it every year for a Ministry of Transport (MOT) test. You can do this at an approved garage. The garage will give you an MOT certificate when your car passes the test. It is an offence not to have an MOT certificate. If you do not have an MOT certificate, your insurance will not be valid.
Safety Everyone in a vehicle should wear a seat belt Children under 12 years of age may need a special booster seat Motorcyclists and their passengers must wear a crash helmet (this law does not apply to Sikh men if they are wearing a turban). It is illegal to drive while holding a mobile phone.
Speed limits For cars and motorcycles the speed limits are
30 miles per hour (mph) in built-up areas, unless a sign shows a different limit
60 mph on single carriageways
70 mph on motorways and dual carriageways
Speed limits are lower for buses, lorries and cars pulling caravans
It is illegal to drive when you are over the alcohol limit or drunk. The police can stop you and give you a test to see how much alcohol you have in your body. This is called a breathalyser test. If a driver has more than the permitted amount of alcohol (called being ‘over the limit’) or refuses to take the test, he or she will be arrested. People who drink and drive can expect to be disqualified from driving for a long period.
Accidents If you are involved in a road accident
• don’t drive away without stopping-this is a criminal offence
• call the police and ambulance on 999 or 112 if someone is injured
• get the names, addresses, vehicle registration numbers and insurance details of the other drivers
• give your details to the other drivers or passengers and to the police
• make a note of everything that happened and contact your insurance company as soon as possible
Note that if you admit the accident was your fault, the insurance company may refuse to pay. It is better to wait until the insurance company decides for itself whose fault the accident was.
Identity documents At present, UK citizens do not have to carry identity (ID) cards. The government is, however, making plans to introduce them in the next few years.
Proving your identity You may have to prove your identity at different times, such as when you open a bank account, rent accommodation, enrol for a college course, hire a car, apply for benefits such as housing benefit, or apply for a marriage certificate. Different organisations may ask for different documents as proof of identity. These can include
• official documents from the Home Office showing your immigration status
• a certificate of identity
• a passport or travel document
• a National Insurance (NI) number card
• a provisional or full driving licence
• a recent gas, electricity or phone bill showing your name and address
• a rent or benefits book.