Campaigners have welcomed new rules that should make it easier for some mobility scooter-users to travel on buses.
The code of practice, drawn up by the industry body the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) and backed by the Department for Transport, puts in place standard procedures that should allow users of many scooters to use low-floor buses safely.
Disabled people will be able to apply for a free permit that will show the driver their scooter has been approved by the bus company and that they have been trained in how to board and alight from the bus safely.
The credit card-sized permit will be accepted by all bus operators in England that adopt the code except for those in London – because of the refusal of Transport for London to sign up to the scheme – and will only apply to accessible, low-floor buses.
The code says that class three scooters – which are larger and faster – will not be approved for a permit, while class two scooters will be allowed on low-floor buses, as long as they are no more than 600mm wide, 1,000mm long and have a turning radius no bigger than 1,200mm.
Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker said his department’s aim was “to give passengers clarity over which scooters will be accepted on a particular operator’s bus, and I hope that this initiative will go some way to achieve that”.
Sallyanne Currie, a scooter-user from Tottenham, north London, and a member of the accessible transport charity Transport for All (TfA), said the card was “a brilliant idea”.
Sometimes she is allowed to board a bus, but she is often refused, because Transport for London’s drivers are allowed some discretion in deciding which scooters are allowed on their buses.
Lianna Etkind, TfA’s campaigns and outreach co-ordinator, said: “Scooter-users face inconsistent treatment when travelling by bus: some bus drivers may allow them to board, while other flatly refuse them entry.
“With more people now using scooters than ever, we welcome CPT’s efforts to make it easier for scooter-users to know where they stand on bus access, and be able to travel with confidence.”
But she said bus operators must “do all they can to ensure the training which scooter-users must undergo to qualify for a permit is available quickly and easily”.
And she said it was “a shame that scooter-users in London will not be able to benefit from this permit system”.
Steve Whiteway, CPT’s president, said the code would “make clear to all concerned the types of mobility scooters our vehicles will be able to accommodate and will, I am sure, improve the service we provide”.
He called for bus operators adopting the code of practice to add their names to the CPT website.
So far, bus companies Arriva, Blackpool Transport Services, Country Bus, East Yorkshire Motor Services, Quality Bus, Safeguard, FirstGroup, National Express, Stagecoach, Thamesdown Transport and Western Greyhound have signed up to the code.
No-one from Transport for London was available to comment.
22 September 2011