Audio-visual systems on buses are not currently mandatory and, for this reason, levels of provision may vary. The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) do, however, require all new buses and coaches on local or scheduled services, and are designed to carry more than 22 passengers, to be accessible to disabled passengers.
All full-size public service buses will have to comply with PSVAR by January 2017, depending on vehicle type. As a result, local buses are steadily becoming more accessible, and the most recent figures show that 89 per cent of the bus fleet in England met the PSVAR requirements compared to just 59 per cent in 2009/10.
I know Ministers have encouraged bus operators and local authorities to invest in audio/visual announcement systems for their buses where possible. However, I do understand that this technology can come at some cost and so Ministers have supported projects to design innovative and low-cost approaches to providing accessible on-board information.
The Transport Minister, Andrew Jones MP, has highlighted the importance of helping a wide range of passengers, including those who are visually impaired, to feel comfortable and confident when taking the bus.
For my part, I look forward to the Government's landmark Bus Services Bill which will provide local authorities with the means to improve their local bus services. In Cheadle, this will allow Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to set better standards of service for disabled people, and I will continue to press for change with Dr Jon Lamonte at TfGM and the Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd.
I have made a note in my conference diary to attend the Guide Dogs Talking Bus campaign stand at Party Conference and I look forward to meeting representatives as well as the forthcoming debate on the Bus Services Bill in the new Parliamentary session.