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First steps from TfL in response to Supreme Court’s ruling over the Wheelchair priority space on buses

Added: 11 July 2017 | Updated: 11 July 2017

Transport for London (TfL) have finally issued new measures in response to January’s Supreme Court ruling on Wheelchair priority space on buses.

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 mobility scooter) users, by requiring non-wheelchair users to make room for them in the bus’s designated wheelchair space.

But despite Doug’s victory there is still a lot of work to do on wheelchair priority. Unfortunately, not all bus companies have strengthened their policies in response to the case. This was demonstrated by a number of cases earlier this year.

Campaign win

Since Doug’s victory, TfA has been fighting to ensure that the Supreme Court’s verdict is enforced by bus companies across London.

It seems that we have been heard, as TfL recently announced that they would be introducing new iBus automated messages on London buses to help ensure that the verdict is enforced.

The announcements will state:

“A customer needs the wheelchair priority area. Please make space“

If the customer does not move a second message will play:

“Customers are required to make space for a wheelchair user. This bus will wait while this happens“

Unfortunately, the second message does not mean drivers will refuse to move the bus for a few moments to encourage customers to vacate the space; it is just meant to encourage others in the space to move by letting them know that the driver will wait while they make space, or fold their buggy.

Now those new iBus messages are a step forward but we think it doesn’t go far enough. We want TfL to introduce a policy where bus drivers refuse to move the bus for a certain amount of time, unless the wheelchair priority space is vacated. The answer from TfL was that “the Supreme Court ruling stated no customer should be forced to move out of the space if they choose not to”, but we do not believe this means they cannot stop the bus for a few moments to encourage passengers to vacate the space.

As well as strengthening their policies on wheelchair priority we want to see bus companies introduce larger wheelchair spaces and separate buggy spaces to ensure that Disabled people can travel with confidence. Some buses on TfL routes already have a space big enough to comfortably accommodate both a wheelchair and a buggy, so TfL has already shown that this is possible.

TfL have also stated that they will be updating training and guidance to bus drivers in the coming months.

A few months ago they issued a poster to advice Bus Drivers on the procedure they now need to follow following the judgement:

Do you find it easier to travel by bus, six months after the judgement? – Bus day of Action (MEMBER-ONLY event)

If you travel by bus then please do let us know your experiences and whether you think TfL’s actions have made a positive difference for you (Catherine [AT] transportforall [DOT] org [DOT] uk / 020 7737 2339).

We are also organising holding a ‘Bus access day of action’ – investigating bus routes across London and discussing how to make London buses accessible to everyone, on the 10th August.

From bus design to driver behaviour, we want to know what you want TfL to do to ensure that buses are accessible to everyone.

You need to register if you would like to come to this event by clicking on the following link and filling out the form (deadline: the 27th July).

I am a TfA member and I would like to register to the Bus Day of Action

Alternatively, please send your full name, postcode and information about your dietary/access requirements to Raphael: Raphael [AT] transportforall [DOT] org [DOT] uk.

We need as many Disabled and older Londoners as possible to take part so we can identify exactly what needs to be done to make our transport system accessible to everyone.

Your rights on wheelchair priority

Day to day the wheelchair priority judgement means that if a bus driver does not require other users to make space for wheelchair and mobility scooter users then you could have grounds to take the operator to court. However, these cases will require proof; so if you do have issues accessing the wheelchair space on buses then please do try to record your experiences.

The judgement will have far-reaching implications for Disabled and older transport users, not only helping to ensure that wheelchair and mobility scooter users have fair access to buses but also sending clear signals to transport operators around what a ‘reasonable adjustment’ is and the actions they must take to ensure the rights of Disabled and older passengers are upheld.

Please contact our Advice Line, if you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly (click here for contact details).