Accessible Bus Services: UK Demonstrations
YORK I O and BALCOMBE R J, Transport Research Laboratory, UK
A substantial minority of the travelling public have some degree of mobility impairment and consequently experience di~culties in using conventional bus services. One of the main problems is negotiating the steps at the entrance and exit. Further, those u
A substantial minority of the travelling public have some degree of mobility impairment and consequently experience di~culties in using conventional bus services. One of the main problems is negotiating the steps at the entrance and exit. Further, those using wheelchairs are unable to board conventional buses at all. Difficulties are also- encounte?b,d by passengers with small children in pushchairs, which have to be folded and carried aboard separately.
Low-floor services are being introduced which address these problems and make buses more accessible. Low-floor buses can kneel to reduce the distance between the kerb and floor of the bus, and, as there are no steps to negotiate, boarding and alighting, even with pushehairs, is made easier. Ramps may be installed to bridge the gap between the bus floor and kerb, allowing wheelchairs access. These improvements should increase the potential market for bus services, and provide less mobile people with a useful alternative form of transport.
Two major trials, one in London and the other in North Tyneside (see Table 1 and Figure 1), of low-floor buses began in 1994 and various surveys have been performed to appraise their impact. London Transport assisted five London bus operating companies to deploy a total of sixty vehicles on five different routes. The other trial, consisting of a route operated by CoastLine in North Tyneside, was selected by the Department of Transport to test these buses outside London. TRL's research was funded by the Department of Transport and London Transport (Unit for Disabled Passengers).
Single decked "Pathfinder 320" vehicles built by Robert Wright and Son were introduced in North Tyneside in October 1994, and in London between February and November 1994. Those in North Tyneside built on Dennis Lance SLF had a single door at the front, whilst those in London (a mixture of Dennis Lance and Seania chassis) conformed with the standard practice of having one door for boarding and one for alighting. All vehicles were equipped with ramps and had either one or two backward facing wheelchair spaces, with a bulkhead to restrain the chair during any sudden stops. Several arrangements of the handbrake/door-opening/kneeling interlock system were initially tested in London, some of which resulted in unacceptably long times for the bus to kneel and the door to open. Finally, an arrangement where the doors opened whilst the bus knelt was ufilised which was both safe and reasonably fast.
Association for European Transport