Parents and carers claim that up until now buses in Edinburgh have been relatively child-friendly, but the larger vehicles Lothian Buses is now using on the 11 and 16 routes have only one space for either a wheelchair or a pram or buggy.
And more than 3500 people have signed a petition calling for the buses to be modified by adding an extra bay area for prams or buggies and for information to be added to the bus tracking system to tell people whether a bus is buggy-friendly and whether the accessible spaces are occupied.
One parent told of having to walk five miles home with twins in a double buggy because every bus that passed had the buggy space taken.
Another mum said: “My first experience of getting the number 11 left me standing at the side of the road with my three-year-old and my seven-month-old because there was one buggy already on. What makes the situation so ridiculous is that for a 100 seater bus there was maybe ten people on it yet I had to wait for the next one.”
Others said they had been told to put their buggy down before getting on the bus – but if they had other children such an operation was not always feasible.
And a wheelchair user added: “I can remember the excitement when Lothian was one of the first bus operators to create a wheelchair space and a buggy space. Suddenly life was so much easier for everyone. Now after such progress we have 42 buses that don’t have such clarity of space and accessibility.
“Please, please return to the space for buggies and the space for wheelchairs as everyone wins and bus travel will return to being fun rather than the anxiety fuelled stress that it has become when negotiating the 11 and 16 routes.”
Lothian Buses spent £11m on the 100-seater Alexander Dennis Enviro400 XLB vehicles which began running last month.
The parents have dismissed Lothian Buses’ claim the space is big enough for both a wheelchair and a buggy.
Scott Arthur, Labour councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, who had previously raised concerns about access on the new buses, said the company had now conceded not all buggies would fit. And he said refurbished London buses also used by Lothian Buses had the same problem.
He praised the environmental credentials of the new buses. But he said: “The fundamental problem here is that Lothian Buses did not consult users as part of the design process for these buses. Although they don’t have to consult anyone, I think involving customers in the design of a service can only be a good thing.”
A company spokeswoman said: “Lothian delivers over two million customer journeys every week operating a mixed and varied fleet of almost 1000 buses which originate from different manufacturers and possess varying technical specifications and age profiles. We want as many people as possible to be able to use our buses in safety and comfort and we are committed to offering wider accessibility for all customers.”