Edinburgh wheelchair user accuses bus bosses of treating him like a second-class citizen

A WHEELCHAIR user has accused Lothian Buses of treating him as a second-class citizen by repeatedly refusing to let him on the new 100-seater buses.

Tuesday, 7th May 2019, 7:48 pm
Rab Hallett, who suffers from Fibromylagia and EDS, has been having some issues with the new lothian buses that have been introduced. Pic: Lisa ferguson

Rab Hallett said it was ironic that larger buses meant less space provided for wheelchairs and buggies.

And he claimed on one occasion six buses in a row left him at the roadside, telling him it was “too busy”.

More than 3,700 people have signed a petition protesting over the single accessible space on the new buses which Lothian Buses insist can accommodate a wheelchair and a buggy at the same time, but which parents say cannot.

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Mr Hallett, 39, a software engineer from Fairmilehead, regularly travels on the No 11 – one of the routes where the new eco-friendly super-buses were introduced in March.

But he said: “What I find is that whether you can get on a bus or not is completely down to the whim of the driver. They are evidently just not trained what to do when presented with a person in a wheelchair.

“Lothian Buses say you can get a pushchair and a wheelchair in the space – but some of the drivers says that’s not allowed. I have a really compact wheelchair and a lot of the time you could fit it with a pram or buggy in the same space.”

He said the other day he and his wife and two children, aged eight and ten, were refused access to one of the new buses and left at the kerbside.

“The driver would not let us on because there was a pushchair in the wheelchair space.

“I wasn’t going to put my foot down but I did say ‘You realise I have priority?’ I wasn’t going to have anyone asked to leave the bus, but asked if he could ask them to fold it up. But he just shut the doors and drove off.”

In an official complaint he has lodged with Lothian Buses, Mr Hallett said: “The lack of driver training and inferior new vehicles are destroying the life of passengers with increased mobility requirements. When travelling on the bus I can no longer keep doctor’s appointments, short of allocating an additional hour’s travelling time on 15 minute journeys, and I can’t guarantee I can get the kids on time from school.

“On top of the inconvenience, it’s upsetting, infuriating and mentally undermining, especially to a person whose confidence and ability is likely to be tested every day anyway, to be treated as a second class citizen and refused the right to travel.”

Scott Arthur, Labour councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, said: “I feel ashamed that commercial decisions made by the board of Lothian Buses have resulted in Mr Hallett being left at the side of the road feeling like a second class citizen.

His experience is completely at odds with the values our city is built on. It’s time for Lothian Buses to come clean and admit passengers should have been consulted on the design of these vehicles.”

A spokeswoman for Lothian Buses said: “We invest in training to ensure our drivers deal with such situations in a sensitive manner and we are in direct contact with the customer to understand what has happened in this case.”