Friday, 4 March 2011

All Aboard the Guide Dogs' Talking Buses campaign

This week, I have called for buses and coaches to have audible and visual announcements about the next stop and final destination.

I have pledged my support for a campaign aimed at making bus travel easier and safer for blind and partially sighted passengers, and other sensory impaired people, at an event organised by the charity Guide Dogs’.

The Talking Buses campaign aims to get audible and visual (AV) information systems – which clearly tell passengers the next stop and final destination – installed on new buses across Britain.

Guide Dogs has found that many disabled and elderly people find it very difficult or impossible to use buses independently and with confidence for fear of being stranded at the wrong stop. They are often left feeling anxious and unsafe, and some give up using the bus altogether.

The charity is calling on the Government to make it a requirement for all new buses in the UK to have on board audible as well as visual information systems, as is already a requirement for trains and trams. It is also encouraging councils and bus operators to look at providing systems on existing vehicles to improve the accessibility and quality of service for local people.

In a YouGov survey, 66 per cent of respondents said they thought it would make bus travel easier if there were on-board announcements about where the bus is going and what stop is coming up.

A lack of information undermines the confidence and independence of vulnerable people who rely on buses to get around. Blind and partially sighted people, for example, cannot see where they are, and others including wheelchair users who face backwards on vehicles may not easily be able to identify their stop. These people risk ending up at the wrong stop.

As well as disabled people, Talking Buses would improve travel for all passengers – including visitors to an area.

Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign has the support of 35 national disability organisations including Mencap, RNID, Campaign for Better Transport and Leonard Cheshire Disability. You can find out more about Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign by clicking here.       

I am pictured with Transport Policy Officer John Welsman with his guide dog Sorrel.