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'I got a ticket to ride'

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Jemma Brown | 12:01 UK time, Thursday, 3 April 2008

Well actually I haven’t unfortunately; it has been all over the news on the last few days that a nation wide free travel scheme has been launched for the elderly and people with disabilities.

On hearing the news about this a few months ago I was seriously excited, I will never be able to drive (legally) due to slight blindness issues, I caught myself day dreaming about all the places I could go to and be able to get on the bus without it costing me money. I’m quite well travelled for a blindy, Three or four times a year at least I go up to London ether socially or through the work I do with Girl Guiding UK, free bus travel when I reach my destination appeals. At the end of the day I’m a student anything free is good!
BUT it would appear there is a slight catch, well actually a series of small flaws in this remarkably good plan.

First off and possibly most crucially my new nation wide bus pass has not arrived, my old pass expired on the 31st of march ready and waiting for the new system to take over on the 1st of April but it cant because my new shiny bus pass has not arrived. After multiple phone calls with the local council, I have been reassured that my new pass is on its way and in the meantime my old pass is still valid for travel.

I’m also rather concerned about other murmurings I have heard stating that the new pass will only be valid after 9:30am. I no this is defiantly the case for elderly users but I am not sure if it applies to those with disabilities, I have also heard that my local council is taking a different stance to that of the rest of the UK on this issue. So really I have to wait for my bus pass to arrive before I will find out. The fact of the matter is that I have to get the 8:30am bus to get to college for 9am; if I have to pay for the privilege I shall not be impressed. I am aware that there are various other schemes available to get people with disabilities to there educational establishment of choice or workplace but the point is that my bus pass gives me independence and freedom which other schemes simply don’t.

I don’t know whether the local situation represents an accurate image of the rest of the country but Gosport where I am blogging from still has quite a few highly inaccessible busses. There are busses here that before you can get to the driver to wave your bus pass at him or her you have to clime a small flight of 3 or 4 steps. It is indeed a mountain of a bus and one I have fallen up before (yes that was a highly embarrassing incident in front of 100+ people). Furthermore if you are lucky enough to find an accessible bus the chances are that the priority seats are full of chavs and there are buggy’s parked in the wheelchair spaces.

The buggy thing is something that really annoys me, I understand the needs of people with children when trying to use public transport, but put simply a buggy can be folded and put in the rack a guide dog or wheelchair user cant. Sitting in a wheelchair space with a guide dog particularly is far safer for everyone involved, the dog is less likely to have a shopping trolley dropped on its head, (this has happened to my mums guide dog Ian) other passengers are less likely to trip over the dog, and in the event of sudden breaking the dog does not fly down the aisle of the bus. Yet when sitting in a space originally designed for wheelchair users and other people with disabilities, guide dog owners get funny looks or even sometimes asked to move by people who could with a little effort perhaps simply fold up there buggy.

So at the end of the day I’m not entirely convinced the national bus pass scheme is a 100% success it should give me greater freedom to travel, but people with disabilities will still be restricted by inaccessible vehicles and the bus timetable.

• Visit Diary of a Monkey


  • 1.
  • At 10:57 PM on 03 Apr 2008, Ms Trentham wrote:

As a mum I know that you cannot just get the baby out and fold up the buggy and walk on the bus. It all has to be done before the bus arives, and there is no help getting it and all the bagage (such as changing bags) and shopping on to the bus- which you will have to do while holding the baby and carrying the buggy on at the same time. Often buggies need 2 hands in order to collapse them any way. Bus drivers do not help and even those that are married cannot rely on having their partner to hand at all times to help (they may well need to work!). When you have twins the problem gets even worse as there is no way you can hold both babies and get on the bus even if you leave the bags, buggy, etc on the curb and go without them!

Well, I smiled when my pass arrived. I'll hardly be able to use it as I increasingly use a mobility scooter to get about. Now wheelchairs can get on buses but I've never seen a scooter on one. Not that I use buses often. Ours, being in a large urban slum generally reek of dope and are alive with tinny, scratchy emissions from MP3 players. The drivers can't drive and they go to the same finishing school as doctors' receptionists. One point re buggies. I remember being a non-disabled young mum and yes, it was impossible to collapse a buggy, having first dislodged all the paraphenalia a baby needs (bags and bags of bottles, nappies and stuff) plus shopping, to put the buggy, stuff and shopping in the rack. And all this before the bus lurches off and you risk dropping the baby. It was difficult when someone elderly or disabled boarded but I couldn't move. Literally. So I just weathered the mutterings. Now I'm seeing things from the other side. There's no easy solution, other than longer buses with more designated buggy and disabled spaces. Worth remembering that small children and babies out of the confines of a buggy are as at risk as guide dogs on moving transport. Plus they throw up at random, which I'm sure guide dogs never do, being so well trained.

  • 3.
  • At 11:51 PM on 06 Apr 2008, TeeferTheCat wrote:

With the new bus passes, the local authority keeps it's perks for local people, thus if you were entitled to free travel before 9'30 in your local area, then you still can.

It's only when you venture into the big wide world that the national rules come in.

  • 4.
  • At 10:27 AM on 07 Apr 2008, Madorwhat wrote:

Totally agree about the buggies - there are often 3 or 4 on the bus I get to work (often with the children out of the buggy), and I've seen people get stroppy when a wheelchair user wants to use the space, never mind someone with a guide dog. It isn't easy for people to fold their buggies, but somehow they managed up until a few years ago!

Am less convinced by the pre-9.30am comments - even if you could drive you'd still have to pay something to get to college, so maybe the pass should entitle you to some kind of discount?

  • 5.
  • At 10:59 AM on 07 Apr 2008, tb wrote:

Well, flame me if you like, but I am sure I have seen this great invention that allows you to carry your child in a harness attached to your body, thus leaving arms free to carry bags, much like most other people... Does everyone who has a child actually need a full buggy? Am sure that people in wheelchairs do actually need them and may not have "other" options...

I had to get that off my chest...

Now if only we could ban chav's with speakers on their phones on the buses and the world would be that much better....

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