Campaigners celebrate victory in Buchan over investment in transport accessibility
"A HUGE LEAP FORWARD" was the judgment by disability campaigners from the group 'Accessible Buses for Buchan' (ABfB), which delivered a petition containing over 275 signatures to the Stagecoach regional director for Scotland at the company’s depot in Aberdeen.
During the meeting, Stagecoach met with a number of groups including disabled people's organisations to set out design proposals to address accessibility complaints including the refitting of stairs and increasing the number of handrails.
Stagecoach announced today that it expects the improved refitted fleet to be on roads by early next year.
"Although accessibility will remain challenging for some, this is a huge leap forward." Jamie Szymkowiak
Speaking to CommonSpace, member of the group and disability rights campaigner Jamie Szymkowiak, said: "It was great meeting with Robert Andrew from Stagecoach today. I'm pleased that Stagecoach accepted our petition and spent time talking us through design proposals that will improve access for some disabled people.
"Although accessibility will remain challenging for some, this is a huge leap forward."
The campaign group has spent a number of Saturday mornings during the last few months obtaining signatures across Buchan, including Ellon, Mintlaw, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
ABfB was set up in the early part of this summer to draw attention to the number of people in the area of Buchan who face difficulties accessing the Stagecoach Xpress coaches.
ABfB campaign organiser, Catriona Williams, said: "We've spent a few Saturdays over the summer travelling across towns in Buchan, listening to people and getting signatures.
"We wanted Stagecoach to know these buses are a vital part of the local transport network that many disabled people, parents with small children and elderly people rely upon and it's good to hear progress has been made."
The campaign has received support from all parties with notable signatories including the Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald, Conservative MSP Ross Thomson and Banffshire and Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson.
Last month, Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford from the SNP had stated that the buses of the area were "unfit” for purpose.
"A huge leap forward." ABfB
The then Scottish minister for transport and the islands, Keith Brown, told the Transport Accessibility Forum in 2015 that "a non disabled adult is 50 per cent more likely to make a journey on public transport than a disabled person".
Eighty per cent of transport journeys are taken by bus with 147 million journeys being taken on the relevant bus pass.
As for train travel there are still about 250 stations around Scotland which are not fully disability compliant and these are on the cards for refurbishment.
Many of the trains in service today are not fully compliant with accessibility standards but according to Abelio, the company that runs ScotRail, these will be upgraded and all trains compliant with legal requirements by 2020.
Picture courtesy of ABfB
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