A few people have contacted me about audio-visual announcements on buses. Having spent an hour doing a 'blindfolded walk' in Glossop with the Guide Dogs charity last year, I fully agree that all disabled people should have the same access to transport services and opportunities to travel as other members of society.
 
Audio-visual systems on buses are not currently mandatory and, for this reason, levels of provision may vary. The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) do, however, require all new buses and coaches on local or scheduled services and designed to carry more than 22 passengers to be accessible to disabled passengers. In addition, all existing public service buses will have to comply with PSVAR by January 2017. As a result, local buses are steadily becoming more accessible, and the most recent figures show that 89 per cent of the bus fleet in England met the PSVAR requirements compared to just 59 per cent in 2009/10.
 
Specifically in terms of audio-visual announcements, I completely understand the benefits that these can bring to bus passengers, having talked to the Guide Dogs charity about this at length, and I know that Ministers have encouraged bus operators and local authorities to invest in audio-visual announcement systems for their buses where possible. Previously, however, the systems to provide such information have been expensive to fit and maintain, so Ministers have supported projects to design innovative and low-cost approaches to providing accessible on-board information.
 
Regarding the Bus Services Bill, which is currently progressing through the House of Lords, a Government amendment - which will allow the Secretary of State to require service operators to make audible and visual next stop information available to passengers - is now also part of the Bill as Clause 17. I look forward to discussing the Bill when it comes back to the House of Commons.
 
Finally, I know that the Government also intends to publish an Accessibility Action Plan for consultation by the end of the year, which will present its ambition for further progress on this agenda.


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