Campaign accuses government on talking buses


Campaigners have accused the government of trying to back out of a commitment to change the law to ensure all UK buses and coaches include audio and visual passenger information.

The Talking Buses campaign, led by the charity Guide Dogs and backed by 24 other disability organisations, wants a change in transport regulations to make audible and visible announcements compulsory on all buses and coaches.

They say information about the next stop and final destination would allow disabled and older people to travel safely and with confidence.

More than 60 cross-party MPs have signed an early day motion backing the campaign.

Current regulations say new trains and trams must have audio and visual information (AVI), but not buses and coaches.

Nora Green from Seaham, County Durham, who is partially-sighted, said: “I have to ask the driver to tell me when to get off and they don’t always remember. I keep ending up in the depot or dropped off at the wrong stop.

“I get so distressed, and just don’t want to get the bus any more, but I have to.”

Trent Barton, a bus company in the East Midlands, relaunched a service with 25 new buses, all with AVI and low floors. A customer survey reported that 85 per cent of all passengers found the on-board announcements very or quite useful.

Transport for London has also rolled out AVI to every bus in London.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it was “committed to delivering a more accessible fleet” and was “investigating the costs and benefits of providing audio visual systems on buses and examining ways of increasing the take up of these systems” by councils and bus operators.

But Guide Dogs said the DfT had made a “very firm statement” in 2005 that if AVI trials were successful, the regulations would be amended “to include a mandatory requirement for such equipment”.

Guide Dogs called on the government to “honour its commitment” and said the fact that the DfT was investigating the costs and benefits of AVI and how to increase take-up “means they are obviously looking for a way to back out of a very strong commitment to amend the regulation”.

Guide Dogs said trials had already been successful and many bus companies had taken up the technology “because of the benefits it offers to operators and passengers”.

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19 January 2010