Independent Living Institute www.independentliving.org


Buses for All (Europe) - Briefings 2000

Press Release 16 February 2001:
Disabled People to Finally Catch the Bus - Victory for Disabled People on Bus and Coach Directive

Buses for All (Europe)

A Brief Presentation


Buses for All (Europe) is a very small group of volunteers who have an interest in buses being accessible for disabled people. This article is an excerpt from their website at: http://www.disabilitynet.co.uk/groups/busesforall/index.html. The multi-lingual header on their website gives an indication of the number of European nations involved in the issue:

Lewjoreion gia olous - Autobus para todos - L'autobús per tot - L'autobus pour tous - L'autobus per tutti - Bus voor geheel - Busse für alle - Buses for all - Bus para tudo - Bus til alle - Buss för all

The group has a technical knowledge of buses, and is concentrating its attention on the work of the European Commission. For some years now, the European Commission has been drafting a new law, called a Directive, on the design rules for buses and coaches. At the moment, different EU countries have different design rules, and this stops the free selling of buses and coaches from one EU country to another.

Buses for All (Europe), along with disability organizations and other allies, have been pressing the European Commission to make full access a compulsory part of the design rules. This campaign has the support of many parts of the European Parliament, and especially its all party Disability Intergroup. The introduction to the most recent working draft of the directive accepted that full access must be designed into some all buses, and not yet into coaches.

In looking to make all buses accessible, The Buses for All (Europe) group is not only interested in the new type of low floor bus, because in some hilly areas there are problems in using low floor buses. There are already many accessible buses which use lifts, and there will remain an important place for these buses, especially in rural and hilly areas. In the flatter, urban areas the low floor bus has many advantages - people can get on and off very quickly, and many passengers with pushchairs, shopping trolleys and heavy luggage appreciate the ease of getting on and off.

Many of the new buses also include cleaner engines, reducing sulphur exhaust, and some running on methane gas. For the environment, they provide a better transport solution in towns by reducing car usage, they are pleasant to use, and respect the right of all disabled people to use public transport.

In Britain, the commercial lobby is divided on these issues. Some companies do not like the draft directives they have seen so far because the draft rules would not allow the companies to put as many seats inside the bus as the companies want. Some companies already run accessible buses with tip-up seats in the area where a person using a wheelchair can also travel. Most of the commercial objections to low floor buses currently are on their higher cost than buying traditional buses. In Buses for All (Europe) we feel that once the rules are agreed, market forces and economies of scale will mean that some very affordable low floor buses will start to become available within a few years, and already it is possible to see lower prices in the market. Disability organizations know very well that, as long as access remains a "special" feature, companies will charge extra for access.

Their website has a March 15, 2000 Update that notes that 12 of the 15 EU Member States now support mandatory access for disabled people to Class 1 buses, which is a vast improvement in just a few weeks on just the 5 Member States who previously supported full access. One official is said to have called this change "a miracle".

The update identifies the current effort to improve the wording of the draft directive. It notes:

"There are still a lot of discussions on the exact wording of the draft directive, so we might not know exactly what is being proposed until after 25 May 2000. At that time, representatives from the European Council of Ministers will meet with those from the European Parliament to agree the final text. In the jargon, this is called "co-decision". The European Parliament voted last year to support full access.

There is also now some optimistic talk of another new directive with more full access requirements. This would be called a "use" directive, to sit alongside the current "construction" directive. Briefly, a construction directive says how a bus must be legally designed and built, and a use directive says that only certain types of buses can be used for certain types of work. For example, it could say that only a bus with seatbelts fitted can be used for school journeys.

For disabled people's rights, a use directive could say that only a bus that is fully accessible (currently all Class 1) can be used for school or public transport purposes. This would leave any inaccessible Class 2 buses only for private hire or where everyone must book a place in advance, like a holiday excursion.

We are told that the European Commission has a version of a use directive in its archives, which it could bring out and dust down. However, it will still take months, and probably years if history is anything to go by, for it to be agreed as a new law.

Meanwhile, for the lobby for fully accessible buses, although a use directive in the future might extend access further, for the moment our attention must remain on the current construction directive to ensure that the final text is not a watered-down version of what we now expect to be agreed.

We also need to start researching what each of the 15 Member States plans to do with Class 2 buses. The UK Government has already declared that it will require all Class 2 buses in the UK also to be fully accessible, and we need to find out how many other Member States will also agree to this approach. So, please keep letting us know what your Government plans to do. Thanks".

For more information, contact: buses.for.all@grads.globalnet.co.uk.