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Public Transport for the Disabled & Infirm

EYMS Group Ltd Policy Statement

Policy

EYMS Group Limited provides a network of local bus and coach services, through its subsidiaries East Yorkshire Motor Services Limited, Finglands Coachways Limited and Whittle Coach and Bus Limited, in Hull, the East Riding of Yorkshire, the southern part of the County of North Yorkshire, South Manchester, Worcestershire and Hereford.

The company recognises the need to move as quickly as possible towards providing easily accessible transport for all, whilst acknowledging that for people with certain types of physical disability special arrangements will sometimes be required that cannot be provided by any commercial bus operator.

Since privatisation in 1987, and especially since coming under sole ownership in September 1997, it has been the Group's policy to maximise its investment in new buses in order to replace the oldest and, therefore, the least accessible buses in its fleet at the fastest rate possible.

This reinvestment has gathered momentum with the purchase of 225 new buses worth £29 million, in eight years from 1999 to 2009, all built to new low-floor easy-access standards and with full wheelchair-accessibility. Additionally, a further 27 accessible buses have either been bought secondhand or converted from earlier models. Thus 252 fully accessible buses are in service out of a total local bus fleet of 370 across the three companies, with more likely to be ordered for 2010.

These were used to make all Scarborough town routes fully accessible in 2000, and since then the two main cross-city routes in Hull have been upgraded, together with the Beverley and Bridlington town networks, the inter-urban routes from Hull to Bridlington, Goole, Scarborough, Withernsea and York, the main routes from Hull city centre to the University, Willerby and Cottingham, Scarborough to Helmsley, and most other main city routes.

Partnerships with the East Riding and Hull City Councils have resulted in many bus stops on these routes being modified with raised pavements to maximise the benefits offered by the low-floor buses.

The Group recognises the need to continue this vehicle investment programme at least in line with and preferably ahead of the Government requirement that all buses on local routes should be fully wheelchair-accessible by the end of 2016.

However, this investment policy has to be tempered by commercial and operational considerations.

Since in nearly every case their design makes them impossible to modify to allow wheelchair access, buses bought before accessible designs were introduced in 1998 will have to remain in service until the end of their useful life (usually around fifteen years) unless substantial external funding is made available to allow premature replacement of buses that are not life-expired. An accessible double-deck bus costs over £170,000 and single-decks cost up to £140,000 (at 2009 prices).

Fully wheelchair-accessible buses cost more and seat fewer passengers than equivalent 'conventional' buses. In most cases existing EYMS buses are operating to capacity at peak periods. Reducing this capacity by replacing existing buses with vehicles seating fewer people means that passengers are left or that costs will be significantly increased through having to increase timetable frequencies. Apart from the cost, the practicality of introducing more buses to improve frequencies is difficult because of problems in recruiting drivers.

EYMS also recognises that until all bus stations are fully-accessible and all bus stops throughout its area have been modified to include extended/raised pavements (bus boarders) with appropriate and properly enforced parking and loading restrictions, the full potential benefits of fully-accessible vehicles will not be realised, reducing the benefits of the company's significant investment.

Many bus stops in Hull and the East Riding now have raised pavements built by the local councils, but until action by local authorities and enforcement agencies guarantees proper access to all bus stops along a route, many of the advantages of wheelchair-accessible buses are lost. Passengers in wheelchairs boarding and alighting from buses other than at the immediate kerbside present additional access problems because of height differentials and cause traffic problems because buses remain in the main carriageway, potentially blocking other traffic for longer than necessary. Unless correct 'docking' with the raised pavement is possible, wheelchair passengers can take longer to board and alight, largely because of the time taken to operate the necessary entrance ramps where close 'docking' with the pavement is not possible. As well as the infrastructure work, proper enforcement to keep bus stops clear of parked vehicles is vital.

The company will continue to press local authorities for many more properly constructed, protected and policed bus stops so that access for existing passengers can be improved and access for passengers in wheelchairs made possible on more routes. The company will actively promote the introduction of Quality Partnerships with all local authorities in whose area it operates in order to gain commitment to these objectives and enable quicker and more co-ordinated progress. The first such partnership in the EYMS area was signed in Hull in the autumn of 1998. The second, a single route 'Quality Bus Partnership' was with the East Riding of Yorkshire Council in 2002, covering the East Riding section of the Hull to Scarborough route.

EYMS does not advertise wheelchair-accessible buses on any route until there are sufficient buses in the fleet to offer a guarantee that at least 95% of journeys on the route will be operated by this type of bus. Major difficulties would be caused for passengers in wheelchairs on less frequent routes travelling to a destination by an 'accessible' bus but unable to make the return journey because another type of bus had been provided.

Travel Offices

The company also recognises the need for full accessibility to travel offices and bus information displays. Although it is not generally used for the supply of travel information to personal callers, the company's head office at Anlaby Road presents particular difficulties. The company had hoped to demolish the existing Victorian buildings and replace them with a modern office block which would be fully accessible, but before this was possible the offices were designated as listed buildings and, despite efforts by the company, it has not proved possible to have this listing removed and demolition and substantial alterations are therefore impossible. This situation has however been accepted by the Disability Rights Coalition in Hull.

Local travel offices in Hull and at smaller towns and villages are generally accessible.

In Hull the new Interchange, opened in September 2007, has full modern accessibility standards throughout and EYMS has worked closely with the City Council and the architect to achieve the most practical and user-friendly design for bus users.

Hearing loops are now available at all the groups' public offices, and large print versions of the bus timetables are readily available on request.

Staff Training and Customer Care

During their induction training all staff, and particularly drivers, are made aware of the needs of people with mobility problems and those with hearing and speech impediments, etc. Induction training and subsequent in-service customer care programmes are all designed to highlight the need to quickly identify such passengers, made due allowance for them in the most discreet way possible, and render such assistance as may be necessary in individual cases. Whenever necessary direct assistance in disability awareness training is sought from Disablement Action Groups or their equivalent. The 'Customer Care and Disability Awareness' day course is regularly given to all drivers and now forms part of the training required to continue drivers' vocational licence qualification.

Group Travel

In the mid-1980s EYMS converted a bus specifically for use by groups which included up to eight passengers in wheelchairs. Whilst this bus was not intended for use on regular local bus services, it was available for group travel and incorporated a ramp and purpose-built interior wheelchair security fitments. The availability of this bus was widely advertised amongst groups interested in or catering for the disabled but it was hired only infrequently and was not profitable. Nevertheless, the Group now has a luxury coach with a wheelchair lift capable of being quickly modified to safely carry a passenger in a wheelchair.

Express Coach Routes from Hull

Most National Express journeys from Hull are now worked by coaches with wheelchair lifts, thanks to another £1.5 million investment by EYMS which provides these coaches on contract to National Express.

Summary

  1. The Group fully recognises the need to make all its transport and public offices fully accessible wherever reasonably practicable and as soon as circumstances permit.
  2. Investment in new local buses will continue to be maximised and all new buses will meet or exceed the standards laid down by the Disability Discrimination Act for wheelchair-accessible buses. The company intends to achieve the target for all local services buses to be fully accessible earlier than the Government's deadline of January 2017.
  3. Induction and in-service training for all staff, especially drivers, will continue to highlight the requirements of passengers with physical or mental impairments, and this training will be monitored and improved where appropriate.
  4. The company will continue to press local authorities to introduce physical measures which will assist the operation of buses generally, and improve accessibility for all passengers but especially those in wheelchairs or with other physical disabilities.
  5. The company will also continue to press for the enforcement agencies to take active steps to ensure that bus stop parking and waiting restrictions are vigorously applied, to ensure better access for both buses and passengers.
  6. This Policy will be regularly reviewed and updated.

Peter Shipp
Chairman and Chief Executive
December 2009