BOSSES at Lothian Buses have dropped their controversial “pram ban” after years of protests from parents.
Under changes due to come into effect later this month, passengers with all types of buggies will be allowed on board, as long as they vacate the designated wheelchair space if required.
The company will also introduce onward travel tickets so any passengers with buggies who have to leave the bus to make way for a wheelchair user will be able to complete their journey on another bus, it was announced today.
Today, campaign group Babies on Buses – which protested against current rules which ban non- collapsible buggies – welcomed the news but said the change should have come sooner.
The firm came under fire from parents over its restrictions on non-folding buggies, which it said were required to comply with disabilities legislation.
The new rules have been in development since 2009 and come into force on April 30 following independent research into accessibility.
The company has introduced 269 vehicles with a dedicated wheelchair and buggy space. Managers now feel that with enough of these buses on the road, if a parent does have to disembark to allow space for a wheelchair user, there is a good chance that they will quickly be able to continue their journey on another service.
Lothian Buses managing director Ian Craig said: “Fifty two per cent of all passenger journeys with Lothian Buses are on vehicles with wheelchair and buggy spaces, marking a ‘tipping point’ at which we feel it would be appropriate to make this change.
“We are sensitive to customer needs and we will make as clear as possible to them the changes we’re making and why we’re making them over the coming weeks. These are good, responsible changes that we hope everyone will recognise.”
Parents are being asked to consider the model of buggy they plan to travel with as they will still sometimes need to vacate the wheelchair space, either by folding the buggy and placing it in the luggage rack or leaving the bus.
Lothian Buses’ ban on non- folding buggies sparked a long- running dispute, with angry parents setting up the Babies on Buses group to campaign for its reversal.
The group’s Caroline Burgess said: “They should have done this a long time ago. A lot of mothers have been left isolated in the meantime.
“We just hope that this will work. Certainly, our members have said they will leave the bus if a wheelchair space is required.”
Last month, the Evening News reported how Kelsey Bryce brought a bus to a halt on George Street for ten minutes when she refused to get off after the driver told her she was not allowed on with her pram.
In April last year, Kayleigh Martin told how she struggled to travel between Gorgie and the Royal Infirmary for daily blood tests required by her infant daughter because she was unable to fold the pram and carry her child at the same time.
Making fare use of the service
Lothian Buses has a fleet of 650 buses that are low floor and easy access, of which 269 have both a dedicated wheelchair and buggy space.
Figures collected in autumn indicated an estimated 1100 journeys are made by wheelchair users each week and 10,000 by passengers with buggies.
Around 40 per cent of buses have a dedicated buggy space, with 52 per cent of all passenger journeys on buses with wheelchair and buggy spaces.
Research by Lothian Buses found of the 111 buggies on the market, 52 per cent were collapsible.
The firm said 75 per cent of those who took part in a survey said they were “satisfied” with buggy space provision.
WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE
July 2008: Lothian Buses tells drivers not to allow non-folding prams on board to keep the space free for wheelchair users, prompting a campaign.
August 2008: The city council asks for a report on the legality of carrying prams on buses.
November 2008: MSPs vow to take up the mums’ case at the Scottish Parliament.
March 2009: Lothian Buses announces plans to trial pram-friendly vehicles.
April 2012: Lothian Buses announces move to drop the ban.