The Omnibus Ownership Query

Bit of a short one this – but almost sad, too – I am close to saying yes to taking on a bus and preserving it. Sadly, however, its a little beyond my means and far beyond my own capabilities to say yes.

Someone mentioned they had some Optare Solo’s available to preserve. Someone else has told me that they could look into getting it here – someone else offered it somewhere to live.

Quite gutting really, then, that I know sensibly, I’d have to say no.

Almost in tears…

The Omnibus Prism

On a day that I was happily taking photos, some serious shit happened.  The reason I took the photos was to show someone and the rest of the world some additions and changes to my little bus world on my desk and since the day that time stood still, as it is henceforth to be known, I’ve not felt like writing the post.

But I’m writing it because someone else I know is going to appreciate this and I’m going to write it if it fucking kills me to do so. 

WP_20130628_004

This is a Mercedes Citaro – in the GreenLine 724 livery, designed by Ray Stenning’s company Best Impressions. 

This is a first version Mercedes Citaro, noted by the fact that the front lights have coloured indicator lenses, the rear are two part (red and orange) and the bus is a 54 reg.  BU06 HSD is a recent acquisition and a local bus to me – as it comes in to Harlow.  DDA compliant, the bus also has a luggage rack for those going to and from the airport.

WP_20130628_009

The other thing about this bus is that it does not have a Driver Defence Screen fitted – unlike the other airport Series 7 Citaro – and is ran by Arriva along the route.  You can actually use an Interlink Explorer ticket on the route – which ends at Uxbridge.

Struggling to think of what else to tell you about this one – moving on! 

WP_20130628_023

YN04 YJT is another bus with a local connection.  In the livery I have, it is a dual door vehicle running for Uni-Link (Accord) in Southampton.  However, this vehicle, in its current guise, is now single door, red and yellow, working for Nibs Buses of Wickford.  It originally worked the U1A route (as it is on my model) before moving to Essex.  This model, for notes, is unique in my fleet as it has steering front wheels. 

So – there are two recent new vehicles to my fleet. 

The Gold Medal Permutation

This week I had the rather huge honour (thanks to ATCO) of speaking along side a prestigious Paralympian.  She has more gold medals to her name than I have chocolate coins (because I have eaten them).  Sophie Christiansen demonstrated time after time how to be in control, confident as she made (in her own words) a “horse dance around”.  In a sandpit, no less.

Sophie Christiansen and Dominic Lund-ConlonAs I sat beside her and listened to how she faces challenge after challenge trying to access her local area and beyond, like anyone else living in the outer west London area, the stories were all too familiar – over travelling to accessible stations, lack of access to public transport, taxis driving straight past.  I wonder just how she manages to maintain control and confidence, as I’m not sure I could.

My own experiences were similar to hers in just travelling to the event in Birmingham.  On the Monday night, when arriving in Kidderminster at 19:45, I found the lift locked out of use and the staff had all gone home.  I had to throw myself on the mercy of a Chiltern train guard to help me up a steep ramp with my suitcase and wheelchair.  (Sophie experiences the same problem on South West Trains, too.)  The reason?  If it breaks down with no staff on the station, I’d be left stranded. Its “un-safe”.

I asked a London Midland Customer Services Manager about this on Tuesday at the “Meet The Manager” event who replied “oo it would take months to sort that”.  He said the solution is to alight me at a station with staff and taxi me to Kidderminster.  “Will the additional time I incur be compensated?” I asked. “No.”  Was the reply. 

Equality for access, but the extra 20-30 minutes in getting to my dinner, the toilet and a shower are not so equal after all.

MAN Bus Headlight ClusterOnce at the show on Tuesday, I tried out the latest in Gas Buses, this one destined for Arriva.  I bumped up on to the platform of the bus, where I went to turn right and move down the gangway, only to find that the drivers cabin protruded in to door platform and gangway; the open door protrudes into the gangway further.  I highlighted the issue, particularly as I am a very narrow chair, to the MAN engineers.  One key designer-engineer said “We pushed a wheelchair through fine no problem” before walking away.  I had to wonder how hard they pushed it through to the otherwise lovely and access compliant bus.

So, when talking about accessibility in public transport on Thursday afternoon, how many of the 12 or so bus manufacturers were there to hear about how their vehicles affect the customers that really rely on them? 2? 5? 9? 

None.  Not one. 

I noted about 4 operators.  Probably 10 or so local authorities.  6 or 8 disabled persons from representative groups.  A few trade organisations and a some media.

As I explained how going on transport for me is a gamble of how accessible it will be, I ponder if bus manufacturers are happy to have their own gamble with the vehicles they sell.

Partnership has been key to a lot of what I have done so far in my public transport career.  So, on behalf of disabled people everywhere, I extend an olive branch to public transport operators and vehicle manufacturers everywhere – come and talk to disabled people (and I don’t mean just a select few that you know of).  Seek out the access groups and individuals.  Learn of who we are and where we are.  Learn what we might need to access your transport services or your solutions you sell.  Let us, disabled people, be able to turn to others and say “look how good it has got”.  Let CPT turn and show others “this is how it should be done.”

Welcome AboardWe all had a lot of momentum over the summer.  It would be a travesty to lose that.

Because each time I manage a trouble free, accessible journey on public transport, I’ll put a chocolate medal around my neck.

The Inter-Departmental Policy Ball Tournament

It has been brought to my notice that the Department for Transport are contributing to the Government’s “Disability Strategy – Fulfilling Potential” with its own disability action plan, to be produced by the Summer of 2012.  The aim is “to address some of the concerns that have been raised on transport for disabled people in documents like RADAR’s guide “Doing Transport Differently” and the Trailblazer’s Transport Report “End of the Line”.

They are organising a small workshop and have invited representatives from groups but concede that there will be no consultation nor will there be any involvement from stakeholders who do not regularly connect with such access groups – disabled people who are usually living their lives as parents, employees and socialites – and might not have the time nor the interest in the ins and outs going on around them – such examples might be a disabled student attending full time college and not in contact with social services or a disabled parent who can get themselves out and about and doesn’t interact with other disabled people or the organisations who represent their disability.

Because of this, the Department for Transport has said that disabled people are welcome to email them what they perceive to be:

  • The gaps that need to be addressed by the public transport industry
  • The priorities and practical solutions for an inclusive transport system

You can email these in bullet points to: elena.barcan@dft.gsi.gov.uk.  When emailing, please outline your disability and how it affects you as well as your method of mobility – wheelchair, cane user, guide dog, companion dog, walking stick, etc…

The idea is to give her the problems that you face in terms of the issue and how it prevents you from travelling – an example:

  • Lack of level access on rail station platforms to train
    • Prevents me from boarding independently
    • Makes me reliant on a member of staff
    • Prevents me from disembarking independently
    • Makes me reliant on someone else advising my destination of my impending arrival

Their deadline for this is around the 1st May. 

The commuter thesis

I think I have narrowed down my 5 worries or so. 5 is an arbitrary number and it might change – just bear with me.

1. I will have to re-educate myself and everyone else required in how to fold the new chair and listen to their bellyaching about how good the old chair was. I won’t care about the old chair if I’m given a chance to like the new one.

2. Travel. I will have to learn how to travel everywhere in a new style and way. This means ramps, buses, trains, the lot. I will need to learn my coping distances with the seat and how long before I want to transfer.

3. Speed. I am used to my ability to rocket off when I need to. I am used to being able to go really fast downhill. This could change and probably will change. This is the hardest thing for me to accept.

4. The girls. I don’t want Monkey, Nuzzle and Scratch to feel like they don’t recognise the chair, to get hurt by new chair or be afraid of it. Unlikely but they don’t really like kittens either so you never know.

5. MBW. I want her to be happy with my choice, with something she will have to look at, push, lift, fold and unfold. She has to put up with my sullen moods as I understand everything I worry about before penning it into this blog. I am glad she came along with me to the first try because as she got to feed in to the chair too – how it looks, colour, position, how I look. I think the MBW factor is always underestimated in new posterior transportation shopping. It shouldn’t be.

5 thoughts there. What have I forgotten? Probably lots but those kept me awake last night and the night before.