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New leaflet and bus drivers forums – Further steps from TfL on wheelchair priority

Added: 20 October 2017 | Updated: 23 October 2017

Following the Supreme Court ruling on the wheelchair priority space on buses, Transport for London have released a new guide for drivers and are planning to host a number of Accessibility Driver Forums in the next two months. Transport for All welcomes these initiatives, but much more needs to be done to ensure that drivers are requiring passengers to vacate the wheelchair priority space for wheelchair and mobility scooter users.


Earlier this year Doug Paulley won a major victory for access after taking his case about wheelchair priority to the Supreme Court. Doug was denied access to the wheelchair space after First Bus failed to require a buggy user to make space for him. The Supreme Court’s ruling made it clear that bus drivers must do more to enforce priority for wheelchair (and therefore also mobility scooter) users, by requiring non-wheelchair users to make room for them in the bus’s designated wheelchair space.


New procedures for bus drivers

Since the judgement, Transport for London (TfL) has made a number of policy changes to help ensure that wheelchair users can access the bus. In July, we reported about TfL’s introduction of new iBus automated messages on London buses to help ensure that the verdict is enforced. TfA has said TfL need to go further, by introducing a policy where bus drivers refuse to move the bus for a certain amount of time, unless the wheelchair priority space is vacated.

Eight months on from the judgement there have been some slow improvements but many wheelchair and mobility scooter users are still struggling to access buses. Feedback received from representatives of Disabled and older people’s organisations during our Bus Day of Action, clearly highlighted the fact that despite Doug’s victory there is still a lot of work to do on wheelchair priority.

Broken communication over TfL new policies

One of the main issues seems that some bus drivers still don’t know TfL’s new policy on the wheelchair priority space. Director of Bus Operations at Transport for London, Claire Mann acknowledge the issue explaining that their challenge is to get the message to Bus companies and bus drivers.

This was demonstrated just two weeks ago, when the Evening Standard publish a story about a bus driver refusing to do her job and ask buggy users to vacate the space.

During the Bus Day of Action, TfA urged TfL to take further action to ensure that bus companies are seriously ensuring that their drivers respect the policies.

New leaflet to bus drivers on wheelchair priority

In September, TfL released a leaflet explaining new wheelchair priority procedures to bus drivers. The information contained in it replaces the information from the Big Red Book. It clearly explains drivers should require a passenger to move, if they are unreasonably occupying the space when it is needed by a wheelchair user.

“What if people don’t make room?

If customers are unwilling to move:
  • Drivers must take further steps to speak to the customers in the wheelchair space. A wheelchair user and an unfolded buggy can often share the priority area.
  • Drivers should not put themselves at risk, so can only get out of their cab if they feel safe and company policy allows them to.
If they choose to leave their cab:
  • Explain to the wheelchair user and buggy owner they may be able to share the space, as this may resolve the situation. If the wheelchair user is correctly positioned and the buggy is not blocking the gangway, this can be allowed.
  • Reassure buggy owners you will not move off until they are safely repositioned.
  • If a buggy owner or another customer already on the bus is willing to get off to provide more space, issue them with a transfer voucher“

At TfA we think this guidance could go further, requiring bus drivers to ask buggy users to fold their buggy if they will not move, and to refuse to move the bus for a few minutes if the passenger will not comply.

“If drivers stay in their cab and customers are still unwilling to move from the priority area:

  • You should make a PA announcement to emphasise customers are required to make space for the wheelchair user or play the second iBus message: Customers are required to make space for a wheelchair user. The bus will wait while this happens
  • Should other customers make space, thank them as that will help them feel valued.

If despite all of your efforts, customers remain unwilling to move from the priority area; do not force them to leave the bus:

  • Tell the wheelchair user they will need to catch the next bus, why you were unable to make space for them and that you will contact your garage.
  • Then contact your garage to ensure the next driver can be made aware they are waiting.
  • Do not close the doors and move off until you have done this“

At TfA we believe this could go further, by requiring bus companies to offer to provide a taxi for wheelchair users that have been denied access to the bus; like they do in Brighton.

Click on one of the following link to download TfL’s new leaflet on wheelchair priority procedure:

Accessibility Driver Forums

While the leaflet is a positive first step TfL still need to do much more outreach to ensure bus drivers understand their responsibilities around wheelchair priority. TfL have also announced that they will be hosting a number of Accessibility Driver Forums about the wheelchair priority over the next two months. These forums are intended to give drivers a closer understanding of various passenger issues, and will have a focus on the revised guidance to better assist wheelchair users wishing to board buses. TfL are looking for wheelchair and mobility scooter users to attend for a couple of hours on the days, so that bus drivers and garage managers have an opportunity to better understand the most common issues at first hand and to speak with people with different impairments. TfL says that all Disabled and older customers are welcome to join one or multiple events, although they will have to limit numbers to no more than two people at a time so they have a good spread of people across the day.

The forums will be held between 10am and 4pm on the following dates and locations:
  • Thursday, 26 October, at Ash Grove Garage (Arriva & CT Plus);
  • Tuesday, 31 October, at Battersea Garage (Abellio);
  • Tuesday, 7 November, at Merton Garage (Go Ahead);
  • Thursday, at 16 November, at Enfield Garage (Arriva);
  • Wednesday, 29 November, at Tottenham Garage (Arriva);
  • Tuesday, 14 December, at Palmers Green Garage (Arriva).

They are planning further events in 2018 so there will be other opportunities in other parts of London. If you are interested in participating, please email tflaccessibility@tfl.gov.uk and they will allocate places on a first-come first-served basis.


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