Lothian Bus bosses make buggy space pledge for new 'superbuses' after row
Bus chiefs have pledged that new double-decker buses will now come with two dedicated spaces for pushchairs after being grilled by councillors over a row that erupted due to a lack of space for parents to store buggies.
Lothian Buses came under fire from passengers earlier this year amid claims from parents that their 42 new eco-friendly 100-seater double decker buses do not have enough space for two buggies or wheelchairs.
Managing director of Lothian Buses, Richard Hall, was interrogated by councillors on the city council’s transport and environment committee about the problems – but was adamant that “I don’t think we have made a mistake”.
She added: “My concern around that answer is that whilst I understand it from your point of view, it does not meet the unmet demand for discussions.
“It’s clear that we recognise the fact Lothian Buses has an iconic status in the city and that’s why we are particularly concerned that progress is made with some of these issues.”
Mr Hall said the company will carry out a “review of our conditions of carriage”, as well as drawing up a set of driver guides. He also promised that new buses would have additional space for wheelchairs and pushchairs – but it is not thought the current fleet will be adapted.
He said: “Our customers’ safety is key and critical to what we do. We are moving to a position with a safer layout for buses.
“From next year, all double-decker vehicles will have a second wheelchair space. That second space can be used for other item including buggies.”
Mr Hall also said there were discussions about plans for “warrant tags” that would mean parents with buggies bigger than the company’s recommended sizes will have to be assessed by bringing the pushchairs into the company’s office.
Cllr Macinnes said: “There has to be a really clear understanding over what buggies qualify. I cannot imagine most young parents’ priority will be to rush down and be assessed.”
Conservative transport spokesperson, Cllr Nick Cook, labelled the warrant card plans “completely unnecessary” and said the company “should always seek to go beyond the minimum requirements”.
Mr Hall refused to answer Cllr Cook’s question as to whether “alternative designs” were tabled which included two spaces and if they were discounted.
Labour Cllr Scott Arthur, who initially highlighted problems with accessible spaces, said: “In these new buses, wheelchair users and those with buggies are fighting over that space.
“You spent quite a lot of money buying these new buses and in many ways, they are not fit for purpose.”
The convener will set up a meeting at City Chambers for concerned groups and passengers to interact with Lothian Buses management. The company pledged that wider consultation will take place ahead of any further changes after admitting a failure to do so last time was an “opportunity missed” and there are “lessons that could be learned in the future”.
Cllr Macinnes added: “It’s clear that there are changing expectations for Lothian Buses’ wide range of customers and I was pleased to hear some of the responses to Lothian Buses around accessibility.
“It’s clearly an area which the committee will be keeping an overview of.”