A free bus service for disabled people and other spectators with mobility requirements, including older people and pregnant women, has been hailed as one of the success stories of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games – with the number of passengers exceeding all expectations.
Unlike other Games-time services run by major commercial bus, coach and rail operators, the accessible shuttles are being provided for the Oympic Delivery Authority (ODA) by 24 community transport operators – producing vital income, additional skills, and the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise, professionalism and capacity to deliver transport services.
During the Olympic Games, there were more than 10,000 journeys on the accessible vehicles, carrying more than 60,000 passengers, with as many as 1,700 passengers a day being taken to the Olympic Park itself. At venues outside London over 17,500 passengers were carried – almost 12,000 of them to and from Eton Dorney, staging Rowing and Canoe Sprint competition.
During the Paralympic Games there are fewer venues and therefore only 11 routes operating, but the demand for the accessible shuttles has been much higher with over 2,500 passengers on the Olympic Park route on a single day. By the end of Monday, already over 20,000 had used the shuttle services.
The accessible shuttles, carrying ticketed spectators until as late as 2am, do not need to be booked in advance. The ODA has aimed to ensure a maximum waiting time for passengers of 20 minutes, including the time taken to get wheelchair users on and off board – but waiting times of less than five minutes are the norm.
As well as linking railway stations with venues, the network also includes buses connecting London mainline train terminals with St Pancras International and Javelin services to Stratford International, one of the main gateways for the Olympic Park.
Norman Baker, the Transport Minister with responsibility for buses and accessible transport, visited the Olympic Park yesterday to see for himself how the services are making getting to the Games easier for disabled spectators and others with mobility requirements.
“It is great to see that our transport system has risen to the challenge of the Paralympics by providing a first rate bus service for disabled passengers. This is a shining example of what can be achieved when accessibility is put at the centre of transport planning,” said Mr Baker.
“The Paralympics has been an inspiration to us all in so many ways. I am delighted the transport system has worked so robustly and would like to build on this in the future.”
Hugh Sumner, Director of Transport for the Olympic Delivery Authority, said:
“These accessible shuttle buses have been a big hit, bridging the gap between public transport and venues for people who cannot walk at all, or those who cannot manage long distances, to get easily, speedily and conveniently to their Olympic and Paralympic events.
“This has been an important step forward in the provision of transport to big sports and other major events – and has given real practical experience and new skills not just to the London 2012 team, but to the community businesses that have been providing the buses and the drivers. This is another powerful legacy benefit from London and the UK hosting the world’s biggest sporting events.”
The lead operator of the accessible shuttle network is Ealing Community Transport (ECT), a charity and social enterprise that operates services including transport for groups, individual door-to-door services, home-to-school transport and local buses. In total 24 different social enterprises, including 14 London based community transport organisations, are contributing buses and drivers.
Thanks to the project, more than 500 drivers from community transport schemes in London alone have received advanced training, significantly raising skills and awareness of safety. This will have built on the existing training they receive from the Minibus Driver Awareness Scheme (MiDAS).
Anna Whitty, project director and Chief Executive of ECT Charity, said:
“When the Olympic Delivery Authority set us the challenge to provide accessible services, we wanted to demonstrate to an international audience what accessible transport should look like. During the last few months, ECT has planned, trained, recruited and worked with 1,000 staff and volunteers to ensure the customers got the transport service they needed, no matter what their mobility requirements are.
“I am extraordinarily proud of how successfully the accessible shuttles project has gone and the number of people that were able to attend the events. It’s a big success for community transport and for social enterprise.”