Rights of disabled passengers using buses and coaches - Citizens Advice Scotland
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Rights of disabled passengers using buses and coaches

This advice applies to Scotland

Bus companies have to make sure that disabled people have reasonable access to bus travel but there are regulations still to be commenced for certain types of buses. This page explains what kind of facilities and assistance you can expect when travelling by bus or coach. It also explains how to complain if you are not happy with the arrangements for accessibility. It includes links to further information for problems in other parts of the UK including London.

Do buses and coaches have to be accessible if you're disabled

Buses or coaches may need to meet the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PVSAR) allowing access on the vehicle for disabled passengers. Whether the vehicle has to meet the regulations depends on its size, age and purpose. Only buses that can carry 22 passengers or more have to comply with the regulations. There is a timetable for these regulations to phase the development for bus companies.

Types of bus Timetable for complying with accessibility regulations
New from 31 December 2000 Now
All single deckers 1 January 2016
All double deckers 1 January 2017
All coaches 1 January 2020

Buses and coaches already covered by the regulations must have:

  • space for a standard wheelchair
  • a boarding device to enable wheelchair users to get on and off
  • a minimum number of priority seats for disabled passengers
  • handrails to assist disabled people
  • colour contrasting of handrails and  steps to help partially sighted people
  • easy to use bell pushes
  • equipment to display the route and destination

The speed at which older buses are being replaced by wheelchair user friendly vehicles varies from area to area.

Can you travel by bus or coach in a wheelchair?

As a wheelchair user you should be able to travel by bus if there is a wheelchair space available and the bus is not full. But you may find you can’t if:

  • your chair is very heavy or very big (taking up a space – when you are in it – of more than 700 mm wide or 1200 mm long)
  • you need to travel with your legs fully extended or the backrest reclined and there is not enough space on the vehicle to allow for this

Before you travel

You must make sure that your wheelchair is in a safe condition to travel or the bus or coach company may not let you travel in case you hurt yourself or other passengers. If you have a powered chair you must make sure that the battery is secure. If your chair has adjustable kerb climbers you should check that they are set so that they do not catch on the ramp.

The bus company has the right to refuse to let you travel if they believe that your wheelchair is not in a safe condition.

It is a good idea to check whether your wheelchair can be carried by the bus operator before you travel. The company may have health and safety regulations in place about this.

What if there is a pushchair or pram in the wheelchair space

Wheelchair users should be given priority over pushchair users. If there is a pushchair in the wheelchair space, when you try to board the bus, the driver should ask the pushchair user to move. However if the pushchair user refuses to move the driver can not force them to do so.

Getting further help and local buses

Most local authorities publish guides for disabled travellers covering all public transport. If you want to check which bus services are accessible for disabled travellers you should contact your local authority public transport line.

There are regulations that guide passengers and bus providers on what the law says about making buses and coaches accessible to wheelchair users. You may find it helpful to go to your local CAB to check what these regulations are and to find out if there is any extra help in your area.

Getting on and off the bus

The level of facilities on buses to improve their accessibility for disabled users will depend on when they were brought into service. Some buses will be fitted with:

  • a portable ramp
  • steps
  • vehicle lowering systems

If you want the driver or conductor to help you get on or off a bus you should ask for assistance. The driver or conductor should help although they can refuse if they have health and safety concerns.

What you should do if you're unhappy with a bus service

If you are dissatisfied with access to your bus service or the way you were treated by staff you can make a complaint by following the bus company’s complaints procedure. Ask for information about what you have to do next.

More about what you can do if you're unhappy about a bus service

Making a general complaint

If you have had problems using bus services in Scotland you can contact the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS). The role of MACS is to inform the Scottish Government about the transport needs of people with disabilities but it cannot take up individual cases.

Tel: 0131 244 0869
Website: www.transport.gov.scot
Email: macs@transport.gov.scot

Other useful information

If you need more help

Other useful information from other agencies

More information about accessible travel from The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee

More information about what you can expect when travelling by bus from rica.org.uk

London travel information for disabled and older people at Transport for All website
Helpline: 020 7737 2339

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