Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Buses

Legal rights and regulations

The Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) requires that all single-decker buses be accessible by 2016 and all double-deckers by 2017.

Journey planning

Timetables and maps, as well as the information you'll find on board, vary from bus to bus and area to area. Online journey planning is available from: 

Google Maps
Email: 

Traveline
Tel: 

0871 200 22 33

Email: 

Bus companies offer journey planning, and most provide information in alternative formats, such as large-print timetables. If in doubt, contact the bus operator.

Assistance

Drivers will often help you to get on or off the bus. A few bus companies have helping-hand schemes, where volunteers help you on and off or even travel with you for the journey. Contact your local bus company to see if they can help.

Some people use a bus-hail card on the street. It is a card with the word 'BUS' on it - your local authority or transport operator may be able to provide you with one. If you have complex needs, you can get a 'Safe Journey' card or similar from your local authority or Passenger Transport Executive. There's a section you can fill in that allows you to give details of your journey to the driver.

Concessions

The national bus concession scheme for disabled people is run by local councils and operates differently in different parts of the UK. Contact your local authority in England and Wales.

In Scotland contact:

Transport Scotland
Tel: 

014 12727100

Email: 

In Northern Ireland contact:

In London, wheelchair and mobility scooter users can travel on buses free, without needing to show a Disabled Person's Freedom Pass. However, not all mobility scooters can board a bus. Most compact scooters are allowed on, but larger ones are not.

Access

Bus access has improved, with most buses having lower steps, easy-to-grip handholds, non-slip floors, improved lighting, easy-to-use bell pushes, clear 'stopping' signs and easy-to-read destination signs. There are priority seats for older and disabled people. Since 2000, all low-floor buses meet the requirements of the PSVAR and have a designated space for wheelchair users.

Doors and ramps

Woman in wheelchair boarding bus via ramp

Low-floor buses have ramps. In London, the driver operates the powered ramps from the cab, and wheelchair users board through the centre door; but in other parts of the country, ramps are usually unfolded by hand by the driver.

Ramps slope no more than 8° when resting on the pavement. Doors are at least 800mm wide, and gangways at least 750mm wide. Floors inside will be flat, or the slope will be no more than 5° in the doorway area and 3° elsewhere.

Space inside

There is at least one space for a wheelchair or mobility scooter user, or parent with a buggy. The space is:

  • at least 1300mm long by 750mm wide, with headroom of at least 1500mm
  • 1200mm long and 700mm wide for London buses

Often, you'll need to manoeuvre your wheelchair or mobility scooter back and forth to get into the space. It has a vertical pole and other grab rails that you can use to steady yourself while travelling. The wheelchair space may have a folding seat for other passengers to use. The seat will be easy to fold up.

Wheelchair users

On most buses, the wheelchair user sits facing backwards against a padded backrest to stop tipping. You don't have to secure the chair or wear a seat belt but you do need to put on your brakes.

Who gets priority?

Bus drivers must ask buggies to move out of the wheelchair space by law.

Wheelchair spaces on buses are sometimes occupied by baby buggies. The rules are that the wheelchair user has priority. If a buggy is occupying the wheelchair space, then request the driver’s intervention to ask that the space is vacated, or that the buggy is folded. There is more detailed advice based from Transport for All which campaigns for accessible transport in London:
http://www.transportforall.org.uk/public/bus/

In addition, the Supreme Court said (in January 2017): 'A passenger who is “readily and reasonably” able to move from a wheelchair space commits an offence... if his refusal prevents a wheelchair user from being allowed to board the bus.'*

Mobility scooter users

Woman on mobility scooter inside busYou can now travel on a small mobility scooter on low-floor buses, providing all of these conditions are met:

  • your local bus company is running a scooter permit scheme
  • your scooter is a Class 2 type and meets certain size limits (1000mm length; 600mm width; 1200mm turning radius; and 300kg weight, including user)
  • the bus company has assessed you in safely using your scooter on the bus

The national scooter-permit scheme was developed by the Confederation for Passenger Transport (CPT) and has been adopted by over 20 bus companies. You get assessed by your local bus company, which issues you with a credit card-sized permit. You need to show this to the driver to confirm that you're allowed to travel on your mobility scooter. To apply for a permit, contact your local bus company. 

In London, there's the similar Mobility Aid Recognition Scheme, developed by Transport for London.

For details of which mobility scooters meet the CPT criteria for bus travel, and a list of bus companies operating permit schemes, see Mobility scooters on buses

Route information

Route and destination information is usually shown on the front, side and back of the bus. The route numbers are at least 200mm high, and destinations are shown in letters at least 125mm high in front and 70mm high on the side of the bus.

An innovative talking-sign system called React gives real-time information at some bus stops. The RNIB also has useful videos on its website, and a leaflet: 'Bus travel explained'. Guide Dogs is campaigning for a change in the law to make audio and visual information, including audible announcements of the current stop, next stop and final destination, available on board bus and coach services across the UK.

Smartphone users

Some apps (applications) are available that tell you when your bus is coming – some of these use voice output. Check if they work in your area.

Reporting back and complaining 

If you have a complaint about any bus service or regular coach service, always first contact the bus or coach operator that provides the service. Tell the company about your complaint in as much detail as possible:

  • the exact date and time you were travelling
  • where you were travelling to and from, and the bus or coach number
  • the bus registration number, the driver's name or description - helpful but not essential

Enclose your ticket if you can, and keep a copy of your letter (or email) and ticket. Give the company time to get back to you.

If you don't get a reply, or you're not happy with the reply you got, then contact one of the following organisations, depending on where your journey was:

England, Wales and Scotland

London

Northern Ireland

Travel tips and advice

  • The bus driver is often under pressure to keep to timetable and sometimes is unable to operate the lift, leave the cab or intervene to force other passengers to vacate the wheelchair space for you.
  • If you're a wheelchair or mobility scooter user, position yourself in front of the bus stop, so the driver has plenty of time to see you as they approach the stop.
  • See also the general Travel tips and advice.

* The Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990, regulation 6(1)(b)

Last updated: July 2017


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