Controversial bus pram ban has 'no legal necessity'

THERE is no legal requirement for Lothian Buses to enforce its controversial ban on prams, it emerged today.

The council-owned firm has come under fire for the policy which it says it needs to keep space clear for wheelchairs in order to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.

However, the Department for Transport today insisted that while it is necessary to provide wheelchair space, it only needs to be vacated "if at all possible" when a disabled person gets on board.

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ECAS, the city's top support group for people with disabilities, said there was no need for it.

There is nothing in the law about which type of buggies or prams can be carried on buses, while city leaders have called for a report into the pram ban.

David Griffiths, chief executive of ECAS, said: "We are keen to see common sense and common courtesy prevail and do not understand how Lothian Buses reaches the conclusion that the DDA requires a total ban on prams being taken on the bus.

"I don't think anyone in a wheelchair wants people thrown off buses for them. It should be left up to the driver's discretion.

"I am worried this is being framed as a wheelchair users versus mothers battle and it is not like that.

"They have co-existed on buses fine until now."

Passengers on Lothian Buses are still able to take on buggies which can fold up to maintain a space for wheelchair users.

A survey carried out in the Evening News last week saw one mother allowed on to three buses with her pram despite the ban.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "The Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) requires new full-size buses to be wheelchair accessible. This means that there needs to be a designated wheelchair space.

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"It is acceptable for this space to be used by other passengers when it is not required by a wheelchair user but it should be vacated, if at all possible, when a wheelchair user requires it."

Arlene Mill, 41, from Sighthill, is one of dozens of pram users who have contacted the News to protest at the ban.

She said: "I think the majority of people would agree with ECAS on this, it just needs a bit of common sense.

"The number of prams and wheelchair users on the buses compared to how many services there are must be tiny.

"I don't see why they are making such a fuss."

"The worry now is that if you have some drivers letting you on the bus on your way into town but you might not get back home."

Lothian Buses today insisted its policy was in line with anti-discrimination legislation.

A spokesman said: "In order to ensure that, as far as possible, wheelchairs can be accommodated on our vehicles, we are unable to carry prams as they cannot be folded.

"We can, however, carry one unfolded buggy if the wheelchair space is unoccupied."

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Lothian Buses' chairman, Pilmar Smith, said: "We are well aware that we have no legal right to enforce non-co-operation of a driver's request to vacate wheelchair spaces.

"However, our conditions of carriage require other occupants to vacate the space if needed by the wheelchair user."