Seeing red over access to buses

Two of the Routemaster buses operating in Blackpool.
Two of the Routemaster buses operating in Blackpool.
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CAMPAIGNERS have hit out at a new bus service in Blackpool by claiming it is not accessible to disabled people.

The Blackpool Passenger Focus Panel says elderly people and parents with pushchairs have difficulty boarding the Routemaster buses which are currently being operated on the Promenade by Classic Bus North West.

The former London Routemaster buses are running along the seafront as part of a summer service.

Last week Classic Bus North West boss Philip Higgs criticised Blackpool Transport for failing to put full details of the route’s timetable on stops.

But now his own service has come under scrutiny because by 2017 all buses must comply with accessibility regulations.

Passenger Focus Panel chairman Stephen Brookes said: “Classic bus have one very serious issue for most people in Blackpool, either resident or tourist. Their Routemaster vehicles are totally inaccessible. That was the key reason they were removed from London roads.

“I have noted a few other Classic bus company vehicle types, and these, while maybe having a front entrance, are still outdated and not accessible for older people, mothers or disabled people.

“So, is Mr Higgs ensuring that by January 1, 2017, his fleet will be fully accessible to all passengers in line with public service vehicles accessibility regulations?

“Competition has to be fair and equal, as Mr Higgs points out, so running cheap inaccessible vehicles seems to smack of unfair advantage to me.”

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Blackpool Transport is upgrading its fleet to meet the regulations and in May revealed it was refurbishing 15 vehicles purchased from the Isle of Man, at a cost of about £50,000 per bus to comply with the regulations.

But Mr Higgs said: “The London buses were withdrawn from the capital back in 2005 to be replaced by articulated accessible buses but a dozen of the iconic London buses still operate a daily heritage service in London.

“Just like in Blackpool, passengers requiring level wheelchair access have an alternative – in Blackpool this is the multi million pound supertram which runs along the tramway.

“While we acknowledge the accessibility issue raised by Passenger Focus, they also need to understand what we are providing is a summer only nostalgic bus service and just like some other transport along the Promenade, such as the landaus and the typical London taxis, our buses cannot be modified without spoiling their iconic character.

“We have no plans to make the Routemaster buses wheelchair accessible, their historic design precludes it, but there is space for folded pushchairs. However, we are introducing accessible low floor buses for a new town service that will start in September.

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