'˜The uncertainty is terrifying' '“ blind bus users slam city operators as they miss their stops because of faulty audio cues

BLIND city bus users claim they are repeatedly missing their stops as travel firms fail to switch on vital audio cues.

Thursday, 1st February 2018, 6:00 am
From left, Dave Taylor with Sherrie Swadling and Julie Flippence Picture: Ian Hargreaves (180185-1)

Visually-impaired passengers have slammed transport companies First and Stagecoach for failing to operate next-stop announcements on their city services.

The audio technology – designed to make buses accessible for consumers with specific needs – was introduced across the fleets of Portsmouth operators in 2013.

But some residents say its patchy use has since caused them to suffer ‘terrifying’ ordeals.

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From left, Dave Taylor with Sherrie Swadling and Julie Flippence Picture: Ian Hargreaves (180185-1)

Sherrie Swadling – who has no sight – often uses Stagecoach’s 31 and 700 services to travel between Hayling Island and Portsmouth.

The 57-year-old said: ‘I have heard these announcements work before, but over the past month or so, they have been non-existent.

‘I ask drivers if they can turn them on every time I catch a bus but I always get a different excuse.

‘It’s getting to the point now where I am having to guess where I am based on the bumps I can feel in the road.

From left, Dave Taylor with Sherrie Swadling and Julie Flippence Picture: Ian Hargreaves (180185-1)

‘That kind of uncertainty is terrifying to someone who cannot see – especially when they miss their stop because of it.

‘It is just completely unacceptable.’

Another regular rider, Julie Flippence from Hayling Island, is severely-sighted and says the lack of announcements recently left her in a dangerous situation.

The 53-year-old said: ‘Because of my sight I struggle to see detail, so when it’s dark or it’s raining I find it impossible to make out where I am through the bus window.

‘Just the other day I missed my stop and when I got off I had to cross a nasty, busy road.

‘In that situation, you panic – it’s really scary – but it wouldn’t happen if these announcements were on and doing the job they were installed to do.’

First and Stagecoach have issued apologies to passengers who have been affected by the lack of announcements on their services.

Both firms say the outtage has been caused by ‘technical’ issues.

A spokesperson for Stagecoach said: ‘All Stagecoach vehicles in Hampshire have the technology installed.

‘Unfortunately, we have experienced some technical difficulties with the system.

‘We are sorry for the impact this has had on some customers and we are working with our suppliers to resolve the issues as quickly as possible.’

A First spokesperson added: ‘We know many of our passengers benefit from the announcements and we would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused.

‘The suppliers of the equipment are currently resolving this and the number of buses where the system is working as it should is increasing by the day.’

Dave Taylor, who runs city charity Losing My Sight, has vowed to rally First and Stagecoach until the announcements are available are functioning correctly.

Mr Taylor, who kick-started the initiative after losing 75 per cent of his sight in 2013, said: ‘The difference these announcements make to someone who is blind is massive.

‘I am in the process of speaking to anyone who has been affected by their absence and I will be contacting First and Stagecoach soon.’