18 Jan 2017
Following the Supreme Court’s judgment today on the priority use of wheelchair spaces on buses, Managing Director of First Bus, Giles Fearnley said:
“We welcome today’s decision from the Supreme Court.
“It has ruled that bus drivers are not required to remove customers from vehicles, which was a key issue for us. This provides welcome clarity for bus operators, our drivers and our customers.
“This was clearly a difficult case for the Supreme Court with six different judgments, and we look forward to receiving further clarity around the decision when the Court publishes its Order. In response, we will implement any necessary changes.
“We recognise how important it is that bus services are accessible for all customers and we lead the industry in improving bus travel for customers with all disabilities. We are therefore also pleased that the Supreme Court found that we did not discriminate against Mr Paulley.”
The current First Bus policy around the priority use of the wheelchair space on its vehicles is to ask other customers in the strongest polite terms to make way for a passenger in a wheelchair who needs the space.
As part of our commitment to improve customer service we continue to work with Disability Action Alliance, RNIB, the Alzheimer's Society and other disability groups to understand how we can provide better services.
For example, our work with Disability Action Alliance and Age UK resulted in the introduction of 'Better Journey Cards', which discreetly allow customers to let drivers know if they need extra help or assistance on their journeys. The cards indicate, for example, that a customer may need extra time to find a seat, is hard of hearing, or may need help in identifying their correct stop. Such has been their success that Better Journey Cards have been adopted by the bus industry in general.
First Bus has also invested some £300m in nearly 1,600 new buses in the last four years. All our new buses come fitted with extra space for wheelchairs and buggies as standard, as well as extra grab-rails, which benefits all our customers.
FirstGroup is one of Britain’s largest bus operators with around a fifth of bus services outside London. A fleet of some 6,200 buses carries approximately 1.6 million passengers a day in a huge number of communities including 40 of the UK's largest towns and cities. We operate some US-style yellow school buses and have a fleet of coaches available for charter. We also operate the Aircoach network in Ireland.