DfT launches £2m fund for audio-visual bus upgrades

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The funding, which is aimed at smaller bus operators, is launched alongside a wider bus accessibility campaign

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced a £2m fund to provide audio and visual equipment for buses, alongside a ‘communications campaign’ called ‘It’s everyone’s journey.’

The funding is being delivered through a new partnership with the Real Time Information Group (RTIG). The group, which supports good practice in the use of communications technology on public transport, will work with the DfT to allocate the funding to ‘small bus operators’ for audible and visible on-board information.

The fund for the provision of audio and visual information on-board buses was announced as part of the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy, which aims to ‘provide equal access to the transport network by 2030.’ It is likely that bus operators will be required to have audio and visible information systems in their vehicles, and the funding is intended to help small companies which might find this costly to implement. The DfT expects the fund to benefit up to 30 small operators.

The ‘It’s everyone’s journey’ campaign is the first stage of a new Government-backed initiative to ‘highlight the part we can all play in improving disabled people’s experiences when using public transport.’ The DfT is calling on charities, operators and commercial organisations to join the campaign.

A video has already been produced for the campaign, which can be viewed on the campaign’s dedicated YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/2JjITa.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “It is unacceptable that people still feel they cannot travel by bus, because of a lack of basic route and destination information on board local bus services.

“This partnership is the next step in ensuring that passengers have the information they need to travel confidently on local bus services throughout Great Britain.”

Accessibility Minister Nusrat Ghani commented: “Transport is at the heart of how we live our lives, and I am determined that we remove any barriers faced by disabled people.

“Every passenger, regardless of where they travel in Great Britain, should be able to do so confident that they have boarded the correct vehicle and are travelling to the right place.”

Tim Rivett, General Manager at the Real Time Information Group, added: “Audio visual information helps reduce barriers to travel and increases confidence in public transport for all passengers, but particularly disabled passengers.

“RTIG is looking forward to working with the Department to help small operators roll out audio visual information and provide the customer benefits more quickly than would otherwise happen.”

In its first phase, the ‘It’s everyone’s journey’ campaign will work with partner organisations to communicate the improvements that are happening at a local and national level to make public transport more accessible and inclusive of disabled people.

It will be followed by a public advertising campaign early in 2020, which will ‘challenge how we all use public transport and encourage everyone to reflect on how common, and often unconscious, behaviours can impact others.’

Martin Harris, Brighton & Hove and Metrobus’ Managing Director, said: “We’re right behind the DfT’s strategy and we welcome it wholeheartedly. Everybody deserves to feel happy and confident while they travel. The best way to make buses more accessible is to keep listening to the experts: our passengers and our communities.

“Our entire fleet (440 buses) is ‘talking buses,’ where passengers can see and hear next stop and other announcements, such as diversions. We introduced them in 2016 after one of our visually impaired passengers told us she had alighted at the wrong stop several times and it was making her anxious.”