Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Chris Miles (DAT 91)

I am a blind gentleman who uses a guide dog to travel from Loughborough to work in Leicester. I travel 4 days a week and generally either use Arrivi buses or the Skylink bus run by Kynch (Trent Barton). My experiences are as follows:-

1. When an Arrivi bus arrives at my usual destination the bus is very often away from the kerb (about a foot away) and I usually have a height of about a foot to eighteen inches height difference between the top of the kerb and the bus entrance. When I alight I always use a long cane which stops me from falling into the road and this also stops me from going underneath the bus platform and therefore falling into the bus which has happened to me in the past. At no point has the bus driver either helped me onto the bus or dropped the ramp or even informed me of the bus number or whether there is a gap or what the height of the platform is or in which direction the bus is situated.

2. When I arrive at the bus driver’s cab quite often they do not communicate with me at all and I am left talking to the driver asking whether they need to see my bus pass but still get no answer.

3. Sometimes I have not found a seat before the bus starts up and goes off.

4. Sometimes when I try to get off at my stop in Leicester there are other passengers standing in the way of the exit and I have to push my way through to get off the bus.

5. The bus driver does not inform me where I need to get off.

6. When the bus stops for me to get off I have to use my cane again to make sure that there is no gap between the bus and the pavement. I also sometimes discover that the bus has stopped very close to a post and if I do not use my cane I would walk right into the post.

7. Again the driver does not drop the ramp for me to alight.

8. When catching my next bus in Leicester to South Wigston I sometimes find that the Arrivi bus is unable to stop at the bus stop because there is already a bus in the stop and it pulls up in the middle of the road (Charles Street) and in this occurrence I have to walk into the middle of the road and try to get onto the bus with a very high step.

9. Again, when I reach my destination the bus driver gives me no assistance, and does not tell me where I am and whether there is a gap or whether there are any obstacles like other passengers catching the bus.

10. Another problem I encounter is when using the bus station in Leicester (St Margaret’s) there is no tactile markings on any of the automatic doors so I have to rely on other passengers to inform if I am at the right door.

11. When catching or alighting buses at St Margaret’s bus station I am unable to walk straight into the bus as buses cannot drive right up to the entrance and therefore there is always a gap to find the bus entrance.

Recommendation:

Although audio discribed buses will help blind and partially sighted passengers to know where they are on the route they are travelling along, I feel that the most difficult thing is to know when the next bus is going to arrive at the bus stop that you are waiting at and which bus number it is and as quite often Arrivi buses are out of service, how long will the next service be before I can hopefully stop the bus with my arm and hand out.

Skylind bus drivers are usually much more helpful as they tell you sometimes what the gap is between the bus and whether you would like help to find a seat.

I do hope that the above points will assist you in asking the minister to get bus drivers better training in assisting a blind or visually impaired person to have a better experience when travelling by bus.

I do not know whether you are also looking into bus passengers who use a wheelchair. In my experience Arrivi bus drivers still do not consider disabled persons as special individuals and they have to struggle to get on Arrivi buses; in lots of cases the bus does not stop at the kerb edge and they do not automatically drop the ramp so that the wheelchair user can get onto the bus. In the St Margaret’s bus station wheelchair uses cannot get onto a bus; they have to go outside the bus station and alight on the bus as then only the bus can let their ramp down.

At the end of the day when you are blind you never know what bus is going to come along and whether THEY JUST GO STRAIGHT ON BY AND LEAVE YOU STANDING AT THE KERBSIDE.

May 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013