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Guide Dog seal of approval for new London buses

A NEW fleet of modern buses being phased into service in London have gained the approval of disabled passengers, including guide dog owners.

Figures show that there are substantially more passenger accidents on the older open-backed ‘classic’ Routemaster buses than modern vehicles:

· You are five times more likely to be injured on a Routemaster than a modern bus;

· The number of passenger accidents getting off a Routemaster is 25 per 100 buses; for a modern vehicle it is five per 100 buses;

· There have been two deaths in the last two years involving people getting on or off Routemasters;

· A modern double-decker bus has one space for a wheelchair, the Routemaster has none;

· The average age of a Routemaster is 35 years whereas the modern double decker is on average two years;

Londoners who have traditionally been excluded from using the bus service have today strongly backed moves to make the bus service safer and more accessible.

The backing comes as modern buses have been put into service form last month on the Number 38 bus route.

Bob Niven, Chief Executive of the Disability Rights Commission said: "Providing accessible buses has transformed the lives of thousands of disabled Londoners, in many cases enabling them to travel freely and independently on buses for the first time. Disabled people - who include those with a visual or hearing impairment or learning difficulty as well as people with mobility impairments - shouldn't have to depend on others, conductors included, to get around their city.

"Routemaster buses clearly inspire devotion from some people, but for large numbers of disabled people they are totally unusable. The question is not whether we are for or against Routemasters, but whether or not everyone should be able to use public transport, including those who are disabled.’

A spokesperson for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said: "Whilst appreciating the heritage of the Routemaster, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association welcomes a commitment to introduce modern buses on services across the Capital. Acknowledging that the conductor - who travels on the Route Master - provides assistance to passengers, the design of old style buses creates a number of restrictions for people with disabilities.

Modern low floor vehicles are more accessible for wheelchair users and guide dogs, whilst on board, space allocated for guide dogs and other mobility aids make the newer designs more comfortable and convenient. Blind and partially sighted people rely on public transport, therefore accessibility and interior layout are essential in meeting the travel needs of guide dog owners."

Support for modernising the bus fleet came after a number of commentators this week dismissed the need for greater access on London’s buses.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said:"The Routemaster will stay as a tourist attraction but the time is right to introduce safer and more accessible buses on all our regular daily bus services. Modern low-floored buses are safer and easier to use, with better access for everyone. You are five times more likely to be injured on an old open-backed bus than a modern one - so low-floored buses provide a better service for all of us, and especially parents with buggies, wheelchair users and others who have struggled with the old design."