Sal Brinton receives apology from Transport for London after being denied access to bus

You would think, by now, that bus drivers would not be so crass as to refuse to ask someone with a buggy to make way for someone in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, this is not the case as Party President Sal Brinton found out on Monday.

She later spoke to the Evening Standard about this:

Transport for London has apologised to Baroness Brinton and launched an investigation.

She told the Standard: “The bus was fairly empty, but regardless – if the wheelchair goes in first you can fit both a buggy and a wheelchair in the space… In fact, that’s exactly what happened when I boarded another bus afterwards.

“I couldn’t see the parent, and the driver did not put down the ramp and said they were not prepared to ask the parent to make space so it made it impossible for me and so I had to wait.”

She added: “It made me very angry, and even more so because this is not the first time this has happened… When this happened to me two years ago, I spoke to TfL and they said they would make sure bus companies trained drivers so that this would be avoided. Clearly that was not the case.”

Well done to Sal for highlighting her experience.  She’s previously written about the frankly appalling way she and others have been treated on the railways.

I tend to find that problems tend to arise with the lack of safe systems to prevent individual staff messing things up. In the last 6 months that I have been using a wheelchair full time I have experienced the following:-

  • Last Sunday, returning from the Scottish Lib Dem Conference in Aberdeen, I was  left on an empty train on an empty platform at midnight at King’s Cross for over 15 minutes before I spotted someone on the first floor, and waved furiously to get her attention;

  • Refused permission on to a pre-booked train, because rush hour commuters rushed on the train ahead of me, and the train conductor didn’t want to move the commuters and risk being late – even though she watched them barge past the National Rail guy with the ramp and me;

  • Often been taken off the train by the conductor because the station staff weren’t notified I was on the train;

  • Having to be transported off the end of a rail platform, across the rail lines and up the other side, because many of our stations, even on main lines like Brockenhurst on the  London to Bournemouth line, don’t have lifts;

  • And been told by Complaints Dept at First Capital Connect that  lifts at Luton aren’t on the capital works schedule for some years and it is also  acceptable not to have lifts there because they are available at Luton Airport station;

  • Wheelchair spaces in new trains tend to be beside the toilets, which is great, but not when they are smelly, or worse, out of order on long journeys.



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  • George Lund 6th Sep '17 - 9:23am

    In this case, the driver was clearly in the wrong, and the apology appropriate.

    But as a general rule, I do not understand why the rights of disabled people should trump those of small children. If a child is too young to stand or sit on their own – and too young to have made it to the bus stop without a pushchair – then why should they have to leave the bus? Why do we value them and their family any different to a disabled person? It is totally impractical to fold the type of pushchair used for an under-two whilst on a bus.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Sep '17 - 10:01am

    The only thing they actually understand and believe in is financial compensation.
    Sal Brinton’s work is high quality but subjective and therefore difficult to value.
    At a minimum the displacement cost of a taxi fare.
    For someone in business in central London it could be the opportunity cost of a lost business meeting. Think of the transfer market for premiership footballers in which a deal did not go through because the Chelsea manager’s mobile ‘phone was turned off on deadline day.
    If an MP or peer is listed to speak in parliament and misses her/his turn there is probably no re-instatement.

  • There’s clear case law in this.

    The Supreme Court ruled in favour of a gentleman from Wetherb y last January in a similar case.

    Legal action by Sal would be salutary (sorry about the pun) – and good publicity.

    Disability groups hail court’s support for wheelchair user on bus … › Society › Disability
    18 Jan 2017 – Doug Paulley was refused access to the bus from Wetherby to Leeds … The case, brought by a wheelchair user who was unable to board a bus …

  • George Lund, I don’t believe this was about the child and buggy being removed from the bus! It was simply about the buggy being moved and a few people shuffling things around in order that Sal’s wheelchair would fit where it was intended to fit. My interrpretation was that the driver couldn’t be bothered to call out to the passengers or expend any effort in the shuffling act required. Pathetic.

  • Real politics in action. Well done to Sal Brinton for her work in seeing that disabled access rights are respected not just in law, but in practice.

  • David Pocock 6th Sep '17 - 3:21pm

    Well the reason to me that the disabled trump young children is simply one of fairness. The next day the children are fine but the disabled person is still disabled.

    I own a small business selling mobility scooters and equipment and some of the things my customers tell me are terrible. One thing has become clear to me however since opening my business and that is that mobility for the old and disabled is the difference between being prisoners in their own homes and enjoying life.

    I would urge party members to consider making this something important to us. If disabled and elderly people can get about easily it deals with loneliness, quality of life issues, enables a disabled person to even work if they are capable. Without this can they even feel like a citizen.

    And if you have a wheelchair. I know it sucks but just surrender your seat and if nessessary wait for the next bus. You will be fine and they will still be disabled.

  • London bus driver is one job I know that I could just not do. Highly skilled, uniquely difficult work conditions, and very poorly respected. Not worth the aggro

  • Kay Kirkham 6th Sep '17 - 4:36pm

    My partner has just started to use a powered scooter and so far we haven’t tried to get on a bus but we have established that there is one rail company which will not allow powered wheelchairs on at all – our local company Northern. For all practical purposes that means he can’t use trains on the wider network because he can’t get to the main line station. The device in question actually dismantles into 5 bits so he has written to the CEO suggesting that we might line up the constituency parts on the platform edge and put them on the train one at a time. The battery alone weighs 14kg so it may take some time……….

  • Lawrence Fullick 6th Sep '17 - 4:53pm

    As I told Sal two years ago the problem at Brockenhurst has been resolved by building a new bridge with lifts.

  • @George, in general, the child can get out of the buggy and sit on a normal seat and have the buggy folded. The disabled person can’t.

    If you have a look, the sign will say that buggys should be folded on the bus, but you can use the disabled space for an unfolded buggy, provided you’re prepared to vacate it and fold up your buggy if a disabled person wants to board.

    Sal wasn’t kicking the child off the bus, but making their parent move them to a seat (or, let’s be honest, probably their knee) and making them fold up the buggy.

  • I would be interested in a more detailed account of what exactly happened. I believe London arrangements are different from elsewhere (wheelchairs board at centre door for example). So how does the driver know ramp deployment is needed? What conversation took place?

  • Helen Dudden 6th Sep '17 - 9:12pm

    Try getting people to move from disabled seating, another unpopular situation. I tried to explain, but that too is another no.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Sep '17 - 9:56am

    Compare the situation when running along a platform for a train while the doors are open. A safety factor is that the doors will close imminently. An employee on the platform prevents access, not on safety grounds but because the train company can be fined for lateness.
    A similar situation became political when London’s Routemaster busses were redesigned (at great expense) by Mayoral candidate Boris Johnson ( a cyclist!) to allow people to hop on, or off, the bus between stops, for instance at traffic lights, despite the increases likelihood of fare dodging.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Sep '17 - 10:08am

    Michael Vaughan said on Test Match Special on 7/9/2017 that most of the cricket fans cannot read and therefore like to see themselves on television. If he is correct there are implications for political parties that like to circulate leaflets in print about education policy. Hopefully the bus driver can read. has passed all the necessary tests and has not forgotten his/her glasses. A bus driver who needs spectacles suffers from a widespread but minor disability and might be appealed to on that basis for empathy.

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