Putting passengers first

Putting passengers first

Dawn Badminton-Capps discovered what one bus company, Arriva North East and Yorkshire, is doing to involve passengers in the design of their buses and the running of services.

Arriva North East and Yorkshire have been carrying out a consultation to find out what their customers want to see on future buses. So far the consultation has received over 2,000 responses and to build on this, Arriva hosted an informal customer and stakeholder focused event at the end of 2016, to solicit further views to add to the feedback they had already gathered.

The event was attended by customers, non-customers and stakeholders including local disability groups, Guide Dogs Association, local authorities, Transport Focus and Bus Users UK. The event was centred around examining two buses from the Arriva fleet on the roads in the North East and Yorkshire. One bus was between 10-15 years old and the other was a new bus from their Sapphire stock.

In groups we got on each bus and discussed what we liked, what was missing, what we expected to see on a bus and what we hoped we would see on buses in the future. Our conversation was facilitated by a member of Arriva staff and filmed by a camera crew.

A lot of our discussion centred on accessibility for people with disabilities, whether that might be someone in a wheelchair or someone with a guide dog. The allocated disabled space on the older bus could be used by wheelchair users or a parent with a pushchair, whereas on the new bus there was a space specifically for wheelchair users and a separate one for pushchairs. The older bus offered only 8 seats specifically for someone with a disability, while on the new bus there were 16. As a customer it was very useful to see that, while the design of buses may still not be perfect, things have been changing and in some instances improving over the years.

When we discussed what we would like to see on a bus, everyone agreed that working and audible AV was a must. There was strong consensus that drivers should not be able to turn the AV down or off, something that a number of us had experienced, and while there was some discussion about the cost of AV, many agreed that there was greater value in having working AV as opposed to wifi. It was even suggested that customers should be asked which they valued more.

Arriva informed us that they had been looking at how buses were used and asked for our views on whether booking a disabled or pushchair space on a bus seemed sensible to avoid people waiting at bus stops and then being unable to get on the bus. They also asked what the group thought of changing the buses to suit routes at different times of the day and making that known publicly, for example scheduling in buses with more pushchair or wheelchair space after 9.30am.

As an organisation whose aim is to ensure that passengers are considered in the design of buses and the planning of services, it was refreshing to see Arriva take this approach and actually consult their customers before making commercial decisions.

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