Accessibility: TfL's failure with London buses

I recently hailed a bus in London and asked for the wheelchair ramp. The driver told me that I could not board the bus because there were two buggies in the wheelchair space.

I told her that she was obliged to make the wheelchair space available to me, and cited the Big Red Book, which states:

“Wheelchair users are to be given access to the wheelchair space even if it is occupied by other passengers or buggies. Use the iBus automated announcement to make it clear that the wheelchair space is needed. If necessary, politely but firmly ask the buggy owners to move or fold their buggies to let the wheelchair user into the area as this is the only safe place for them to travel.”

When I had remonstrated with the driver and reminded her of her obligation as quoted above, she said that she could not insist that the buggy owners fold their buggies.

She then spoke to the buggy-owners as follows (I quote verbatim): “Would you be willing to fold your buggy for a wheelchair user?”. The answer was “No”, she shrugged her shoulders and told me I would not be able to get on the bus, and drove off.

There are two aspects to this which I find completely unacceptable.

First of all, the Big Red Book states that she should: “politely but firmly ask the buggy owners to move or fold their buggies to let the wheelchair user into the area”. She was polite but she was not firm. She asked the buggy owners if they would be willing to fold their buggies. This is not a firm request. It is a very feeble request, and conveys no sense of the obligation upon buggy owners to make the wheelchair space available.

(She would surely not have asked someone smoking a cigarette: “Would you be willing to extinguish your cigarette?” but would have been far more insistent - why not also when it comes to access for the disabled??.)

The driver did NOT, therefore, obey the instructions in the Big Red Book.

Secondly, and more seriously, the driver did NOT comply with the law. A recent court judgement has ruled that it is illegal to deny a wheelchair user access to the wheelchair space on a bus, even when that space is occupied by buggies:

TfL and the London bus companies and their drivers are currently NOT meeting their legal obligations.

I am looking at options for taking this case to court.

It would be interesting to hear what the officials at TfL would say if you put in an official complaint.

Go get 'em!!!


I’ve put in a complaint and I’ll post the response here when I get it! Chris

Good luck Chris, I think back to when I worked in London, I don’t know how you cope, so hat’s off to you! Being able bodied I remember trying to tube and bus it when unwell one day and the journey really shook me up :frowning:

I hope you complaint is upheld :slight_smile:

Sonia x

There was a similar case brought to Court in Leeds and the man won damages on the basis of discrimination under the equality act

BBC News - Doug Paulley wins First Bus discrimination ruling

23 Sep 2013 - A disabled man wins a legal ruling against a bus company over its wheelchair policy.

Take the bus company to court - it will help us all by stopping them behaving in this way towards people
with disabilities who use wheelchairs

:slight_smile: Mary

Oh how I would like the option to fold up my wheelchair and sit in one of the other 50 or so spaces on a double decker.

Fight the good fight!


Thanks for all your supportive comments.

I’ve been in touch with Transport for All, and I’m going to ask them to help me take this to court. I am really fed up with the attitude of a minority of London Bus drivers. The tube is virtually a no-go zone for wheelchairs, so I rely heavily on buses and I don’t like being excluded when it’s the bus companies’ legal obligation to let me board.


This is NOT an excuse for the bus driver in any way, shape or form but, having been at the receiving end of the anti-social, inconsiderate behaviour of SOME bus passengers in London (with or without buggies) I am not suprised that this happend in the slightest.

Until last year I lived in South London (few/no tubes) so I had to go by bus most of the time. I do not use a wheelchair but I do have walking and standing problems so I really need the priority seats otherwise I am thrown around like a rag doll.

Never, and I mean NEVER, did a mother with a buggy ever offer to move her “baby transport system” (you know the ones that are bigger than a Fiat 500) and there was never just one of them.

There was supposed to be A) a limit to how many buggies were allowed on a bus at once and B) the driver was supposed to REQUIRE buggies to be folded but the drivers were always too scared to do it.

If they did, they were abused and I have seen them be threatened with violence. I have been present (not involved through) during incidents where Police had to be called because a mother kicked off after being asked to move.

I have even known (through my job as a CPS lawyer) incidents when drivers were assaulted or had knives pulled on them by passengers (including mothers) who they dared to “tell off”

I can understand why a driver would “chicken out” in the circumstances - especially if they were badly trained. Driving a London Bus is something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy!

You have to make a complaint to the bus company and TFL as soon as you possibly can. Most London buses have really excellent CCTV that would cover the whole incident but it is only kept for a limited time so, with your complaint, you should make a clear request that they preserve the CCTV as you are considering legal action against them. (If nothing else, it will put the living bejasus up them!)

I am so pleased that I left London when I did. The idea of trying to survive (not live, just SURVIVE) there with a disability is horrific to me.

I now live in Cardiff and I cannot begin to tell you how different the bus service is here. I see a lot of people who use powerchairs/small scooters and they seem to manage really well and the drivers seem good. Even someone like me who is just using a stick (and now a single crutch) find the drivers are brilliant - almost too brilliant to be honest because they always lower the bus at the stop for me without ever needing to be asked which always makes me feel a bit of a fraud when I don’t need it.