I rise to say a few words on clause 17, which is the only UK-wide provision in the Bill. I am going to start by doing something that I have not done before, which is to commend the Government and the other place for agreeing to amendments that brought in clause 17 and the provisions on accessibility. This is a victory for common sense as well as for equality. It makes no sense that train operators have had to provide audio-visual information for years, yet bus companies are under no such obligation. By default it is clear that more people use buses and that people with visionary or sensory impairment are likely to require access to buses far more frequently than to trains.
As part of the Talking Buses campaign, I wrote to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones and also used my first question to the Prime Minister to raise awareness of the campaign, so I am well aware that at that point the Government were not for moving on this matter. The Transport Minister’s response stated:
“Such systems are expensive to install, potentially creating a disproportionate financial burden to bus companies”.
He also stated:
“We propose that franchising schemes could require the installation of equipment to provide accessible information on buses where the local authority feel this is appropriate”.
We cannot have the Government putting out the message that these provisions would be too expensive for them, only to ask local authorities to deal with them instead.