A new campaign launched by Sight Loss Councils is calling on the government to urgently speed up the introduction of audio visual announcements on buses.
Campaigners say the lack of progress in implementing technology to announce routes, destinations and stops is cutting off a “vital lifeline” to blind and partially sighted people.
It is five years since the government introduced the Bus Services Act 2017. This Act introduced a range of measures to improve bus services, including a requirement to introduce audio visual technology. However, for audio visual announcements on buses, these ambitions are largely still not implemented.
In addition, in November 2019, as part of its National Bus Strategy, the government announced a plan to make available funding of £2 million to help bus operators implement audio visual announcements. This was increased by a further £1.5 million. However, information obtained by Sight Loss Councils under the Freedom of Information Act shows that, to date, not a penny of this money has been spent, despite most of it having been announced nearly three years ago.
There are more than two million blind and partially sighted people in the United Kingdom. For these people, many of whom are not legally permitted to drive, public transport is the vital lifeline to work, education, health care and other community facilities and businesses.
For blind and partially sighted people, audio visual announcements can make a fundamental difference for them to travel independently. Without them, using the bus network can be challenging at best and impossible at worst. But it is not just visually impaired people who would benefit from audio visual announcements – all bus users who would get stronger, real-time information about journeys, routes and stops.
Mike Bell, Sight Loss Councils’ Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns, said: “Buses are a vital way for blind and partially sighted people to get around freely and independently, but many feel excluded from bus travel because of a lack of accessible information.
“At present there is inconsistency within and between bus companies. This means some routes are fitted with audio visual technology but on many buses in the same area, passengers who are visually impaired have no assistance at all.
“Despite the warm words, the pace of change on this has been too slow. Five years on from creating powers to require bus companies to implement audio visual announcements, the government has not used them.
“Nearly three years after announcing funding to improve the rollout of audio visual announcements, not a penny has been spent. It is just not good enough!”
Sight Loss Councils have written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, urging him to fast track action on audio visual announcements. They are now asking people to write to their MP to support the campaign for action: https://tpt.eaction.org.uk/makebusesaccessible
Full details of the campaign can be found on: www.sightlosscouncils.org.uk/campaigns/maketransportaccessible