It was announced in the 2015 Queen’s Speech that a Buses Bill would be introduced to enable the regulation of local bus networks. I will monitor the Bill closely when it comes forward to ensure that it meets its stated intention of allowing local transport bodies to better integrate public transport and deliver a system that works for everyone, including people with visual impairment and disabilities.
Significant barriers still exist that prevent all people with disabilities being able to use buses. The previous Labour government made real progress and introduced a range of measures to improve and regulate disabled access to public transport, including the Public Service Vehicle Access (PSVA) regulations, which set minimum standards for accessibility on buses.
More needs to be done now. Organisations such as Guide Dogs UK have emphasised that the lack of clear, audible information on buses can limit access for many blind and partially sighted people.
I have long supported Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign to get audible and visual (AV) information systems – which clearly tell all passengers the next stop and final destination – installed on new buses, by calling on Merseyside bus companies to install the equipment. You can read a previous post I shared on the campaign by clicking here.
The Buses Bill provides a good opportunity to expand the provision of talking buses. A number of the bus operators who have already installed such systems have found them to be good value for money. Disabled bus users have also made it clear that these systems can help make their journeys easier.
The government continue to favour a voluntary approach and have stated that it does not intend to legislate for there to be a requirement for buses to include audio-visual (AV) technology because making ‘on-board systems a requirement on all new buses would be a significant cost to the industry’. While the costs of installing suitable AV systems on existing buses could be costly, this could potentially be avoided by requiring AV systems on all new buses – meaning a gradual phasing in of this technology.
I would also like the government to carry out an assessment of the benefits of installing AV equipment in buses, including links to skills and jobs and to set a clear date by which all buses will have AV announcement systems.