Disabled and older people demand bus improvements

Two hundred transport activists descended on Westminster on 6th September, to demand that Transport for London (TfL) and bus companies make buses more accessible for older and disabled people.

The event marked the launch of the On The Buses report, which highlights the extent of problems older and disabled people face on London’s buses. The report found that

  • one in four buses did not pull right into the kerb
  • on 42% of buses passengers were not given time to sit down
  • on 48 occasions the wheelchair ramps did not work

Campaigners gathered at Camden bus station, Liverpool Street bus station, Vauxhall bus station and Marylebone bus station, waving placards and flags; and chanting and cheering for accessible transport. They then rode buses to Westminster, where they posed tough questions to a panel of transport providers.

The panel, which included representatives from London Travelwatch, TfL, and bus companies Arriva, Stagecoach and London United, were challenged on issues ranging from information at bus stops for blind and visually impaired people; how to make sure those with learning disabilities feel safe from harassment or abuse on the bus; and getting hearing loops installed on all London buses.

The event was organised by Transport for All, Age UK London and Greater London Forum for Older People. It is part of a campaign to urge Transport for London and bus companies to ensure that all Londoners, including older and disabled people, are able to board buses safely, and travel with the same freedom and independence that other Londoners take for granted.

Campaign demands include:

  • Bus companies to directly involve older and disabled people in bus driver training

Currently, while all drivers receive training on disability, there are concerns that the content of this is inadequate and not sufficiently practical and ‘real life’. Bus drivers must be rigorously trained to pull in tightly to the kerb, not move off before they have reached the bus stop; ask buggy users to vacate the wheelchair space and give passengers time to sit down.

  • Highway authorities to ensure all bus stops are accessible

Only 50% of bus stops in London are fully accessible – though this varies from 83% in Kingston on Thames to only 34% in Richmond. TfL have recently cut their target for making bus stops accessible from 75% to 65% by 2017/ 2018. Transport for All think the target should be 100%.

  • TfL to include the views of older and disabled people in bus design

Accessible vehicle design – including seats which are high enough that older people can rise from them easily, and a wheelchair space large enough that wheelchair and pushchair users need not compete for it – is crucial to buses which everyone can use.

The chair, London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold, closed the event by urging the audience to continue campaigning locally on these issues, and to respond to the Mayor’s Transport Accessibility Implementation Plan.

We will post more information on how to take action in your area for accessible buses shortly.

You can read a copy of the On the Buses report here.

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