Transport for London has admitted failing to consult with disabled people’s organisations on the final design of its new Routemaster bus.
The old Routemasters were scrapped by the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, largely because they were not accessible.
Unveiling the “final design” of the new bus, the current mayor, Boris Johnson, said it would become an “emblem of 21st century London” and swooned over the “green heart beating beneath its stylish, swooshing exterior”.
The bus will feature two staircases, two conventional doors and an open platform at the rear, allowing the “hop on, hop off” feature of the old Routemasters.
But when asked what consultation had taken place with disabled people, the mayor of London’s transport advisor, Kulveer Ranger, said: “Consultation has already taken place with London TravelWatch [the watchdog representing all transport users] and later this year a full mock-up of the bus will arrive in the capital, which will provide a good opportunity for groups representing disabled people to see the bus for themselves and feed back their opinions.”
Faryal Velmi, director of the campaigning accessible transport charity Transport for All, said she was “not impressed at all” with the lack of consultation.
She said there should have been “genuine consultation” which would have allowed disabled people’s “hard practical experiences”, as London’s buses have become more accessible, to be incorporated into the new design.
Andrew Little, chief executive of Inclusion London, the new organisation representing Deaf and disabled Londoners, said: “Designs for a new Routemaster should have involved consultation with disabled people from the outset.
“The mayor has a duty to pay due regard to disability equality and how can he do that without involving disabled people?
“Inaccessibility was central to why the old Routemaster was discontinued. Rather than wasting time and money on a vanity project to resurrect it, disabled Londoners need a mayor that puts equality first.
“The many millions of pounds spent could and should be used to fund the changes needed to make the Tube accessible and affordable – changes that Boris Johnson’s new transport strategy has cut.”
Ranger said the new bus would be “fully accessible” and its designs “already meet the stringent standards that have been laid down for London’s bus fleet”.
He said: “The iconic Routemaster that inspired the appearance of the new bus was criticised for its lack of accessibility.
“However, the mayor’s version will be fitted with a wheelchair ramp on the central door, a wheelchair bay, step-free low floor on the lower deck and Ibus onboard audio announcements.”
27 May 2010