Con­cern voiced over poor bus ac­cess for the dis­abled

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

CON­CERN has been raised in Lochaber over poor ac­cess to buses for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

Lochaber Trans­port Fo­rum had a busy May meet­ing with bus is­sues at the fore­front of dis­cus­sions. Prob­lems ranged from lack of wheelchair ac­cess to lack of low floor buses on cer­tain routes.

Fol­low­ing the com­plaints, High­lands and Is­lands MSP David Ste­wart has writ­ten to Stage­coach Bus.

Mr Ste­wart said: ‘ Trans­port should be ac­ces­si­ble for ev­ery­one.

‘It’s good for the econ­omy and means fewer car jour­neys, which re­duces car­bon emis­sions. Dis- abled peo­ple should be treated fairly and in par­ity with all oth­ers.

‘It is my un­der­stand­ing buses or coaches may need to meet the Pub­lic Ser­vice Ve­hi­cle Ac­ces­si­bil­ity Reg­u­la­tions 2000 (PVSAR) al­low­ing ac­cess on the ve­hi­cle for dis­abled pas­sen­gers. Whether the ve­hi­cle has to meet the reg­u­la­tions de­pends on its size, age and pur­pose. Only buses that can carry 22 pas­sen­gers or more have to com­ply with the reg­u­la­tions. There is a timetable for these reg­u­la­tions to phase the de­vel­op­ment for bus com­pa­nies.

‘Ob­vi­ously I am con­cerned to hear some dis­abled peo­ple in and around Fort Wil­liam have ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fi­culty with ac­cess to some Stage­coach Buses so I have writ­ten to the area man­ager of Stage­coach Bus to as­cer­tain what the cur­rent po­si­tion is with dis­abil­ity ac­cess buses used in and around Fort Wil­liam.’ Speak­ing to the Lochaber

Times, Arthur Cowie, chair­man of the Scot­tish Ac­ces­si­ble Trans­port Al­liance (SATA), said there have been nu­mer­ous is­sues re­lated to el­derly and dis­abled res­i­dents of Lochaber ac­cess­ing buses op­er­at­ing in the High­lands.

He said: ‘These are con­stantly raised with the op­er­a­tors at places, such as the Trans­port Fo­rum. Many of these can be di­rectly con­nected to the age of the ve­hi­cles and the poor main­te­nance of the na­tional op­er­a­tor’s fleets of buses ser­vic­ing the area.

‘How­ever, there is an is­sue on what is an ‘ ac­ces­si­ble’ ve­hi­cle. All the op­er­a­tors will in­form you they are op­er­at­ing ve­hi­cles which are com­pli­ant with cur­rent leg­is­la­tion. This means they are ac­ces­si­ble by a wheelchair user via ei­ther a level low floor en­try or by the use of the wheelchair hoist.

‘This is­sue has been raised with politi­cians from all par­ties for a num­ber of years, in both West­min­ster and Holy­rood. It will re­quire both par­lia­ments to re­view and ad­dress the fail­ings in the leg­is­la­tion of what is an ‘ac­ces­si­ble’ ve­hi­cle. This ap­plies to all trans­port, not just the buses.

‘Last year SATA at­tended meet­ings in Aberdeen re­lat­ing to ac­ces­si­ble is­sues in buses which had been brought into ser­vice in Buchan. These ve­hi­cles were fully com­pli­ant with the leg­is­la­tion, yet the politi­cians laid the full onus on the op­er­a­tor. The elected politi­cians ap­pear un­will­ing to recog­nise or ac­cept their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on this is­sue.

‘It is im­por­tant to stress pub­lic trans­port should be ac­ces­si­ble to all.’

A Stage­coach North Scot­land spokes­woman said: ‘We await Mr Ste­wart’s let­ter and will re­spond to him fully. All our ve­hi­cles op­er­at­ing in Fort Wil­liam are al­ready fully com­pli­ant with the stan­dards and reg­u­la­tions ap­pli­ca­ble to ac­ces­si­bil­ity for lo­cal bus ser­vices.

‘Any cus­tomers with ac­cess con­cerns should con­tact our dis­abil­ity help desk on 01463 258933 or by email at high­land. dis­abil­i­ty­helpdesk@stage­coach­bus.com.’

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