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Bus drivers ignoring the Blue buzzers

Blog by TfA member Chris Stapleton. This blog and its content reflect the views of the author only.

“Recently I sent my 32nd complaint to TfL about a driver not letting me off the bus when I requested the wheelchair ramp. On thirty-two separate occasions, instead of the deploying the ramp as requested, a driver has simply closed the doors and driven off with me still onboard.

All London buses have a wheelchair space, and every wheelchair space has a blue button. This button is there for the wheelchair user to tell the driver “I want to get off at the next stop, and please deploy the wheelchair ramp there“. The blue button makes a sound quite different from the normal red buttons elsewhere on the bus. Normally the blue button’s sound is like a siren – it’s very distinctive, and hard to miss or ignore.

The blue button also illuminates an indicator on the driver’s dashboard, as clearly mentioned in the drivers’ manual the ‘Big Red Book’ (page 69): “Letting the wheelchair user off the bus: Listen out in case the wheelchair user tells you where they’re going. If not, listen and look for the distinctive bell and dashboard light.“

So you’d think that the driver would notice when a wheelchair user has signalled a wish to get off the bus. But many drivers aren’t paying enough attention to notice the twin visual and audible alerts – or just ignore them.

When the driver pulls away from the bus stop after ignoring my request, with me still onboard, I normally shout ‘STOP THE BUS!! – I PRESSED THE BLUE BUTTON!!’ After a few yards, if I’m lucky, the bus will judder to a halt and the driver will deploy the ramp. Most drivers don’t give any sort of apology for failing to deploy the ramp earlier. Some drivers don’t even stop the bus, and I’m forced to get off at the next stop.

TfL’s slogan is “Every journey matters.“ Many of its bus drivers clearly don’t agree.

In 2013 I submitted two complaints to TfL about this problem; in 2014 seven complaints; in 2015 fourteen complaints, and this year – up to the middle of April – seven complaints. At the present rate, I will be submitting over 21 complaints for this year alone. So the situation is getting worse.

I am angry about this casual attitude on the part of bus drivers. Their lazy and disrespectful behaviour is making journeys very unpleasant for wheelchair users. When I make a complaint to TfL, I always get bland assurances from a ‘Customer Service Advisor’ that the expected standards have not been met, the driver will be interviewed, etc. etc., but the fact remains that the number of these unpleasant incidents is rising steadily.

A message to TfL: your bus drivers are not doing their job properly. Please sort this out”