Concern voiced over poor bus access for the disabled
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. email@example.com.’