Talking Buses – Just The Ticket!

John Leech MP with John Welsman, Transport Policy Officer for Guide Dogs UK and guide dog Sorrel

It is hard to understand the difficulties faced by blind and partially sighted people face without having experienced them; things we take for granted can be very difficult, simply travelling from A to B for example.

‘Talking Buses’ is a campaign for audio-visual announcements on buses across the whole of the UK, to improve the accessibility of public transport and the way passengers get information about their journey, the next stop and final destination would be announced and displayed as the bus travels along its route. These announcements would greatly improve the lives of blind and partially sighted people and allow them to enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else.

Last week Norman Baker MP, Liberal Democrat Transport Minister, was presented with a talking birthday card by the Guide Dogs Campaigns Team, signed by over 600 supporters, asking for an extra special birthday present of Talking Buses across the whole of the UK  this year.

I myself would like to see a change in legislation to make ‘Talking Buses’ compulsory. I have already show my support for this campaign by hosting a parliamentary event in support of the ‘Talking Buses’ campaign and introducing an early day motion on the topic EDM 12 – ‘Talking Buses’ which states:

“That this House, acknowledging the role of accessible local bus services in the mobility of disabled people, recognises that the lack of audio visual information systems on buses makes those services difficult to use for many people; supports the Talking Buses campaign led by Guide Dogs and supported by 20 other national organisations; and calls on the Government to amend the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations to require audible and visual information systems on all new buses, which would announce next stop and final destination information.”

I urge anyone who wants to know more about the talking buses campaign to visit the Guide Dogs website at

6 responses to “Talking Buses – Just The Ticket!

  1. Stops in Manchester are approximately 200m apart, the robot (and it would be a robot) would never stop speaking. That doesn’t seem like something which would be desirable to most passengers.

    Rather than installing a costly and irritating system in every new bus, wouldn’t it be better to simply create an app for mobile phones which could tell you what the next stop was?

    This would have a number of advantages:
    * It would be cheaper.
    * It would work regardless of how old the bus you were travelling on was.
    * There would be no danger of noise from traffic or noise on the bus meaning you didn’t hear the name of the next stop.
    * It could tell you the information better personalised to you – ie how long/how many stops until the stop you’re getting off at.
    * If the system on the bus is broken, you’re stuffed. If your phone is broken you know before you leave the house.
    * It wouldn’t inflict a nonstop computerised monotone on every passenger on the bus.

  2. Hi Phil,
    I now live in London and the bus stops are every bit as frequent as they are in Manchester (where I lived for many years until I moved South 18 months ago). When I first moved here I found the “next stop” and “final destination” announcements to be absolutely invaluable as I learnt my way around a new city (I am not registered blind or partially sighted), so I think that audio visual announcements on board buses in Manchester would have the same useful impact for tourists and other people unfamiliar with the city. As I have become more familiar with London, I have found that on the routes I use most often I simply “tune out” the announcements, so I don’t find them irritating. I notice that a lot of other bus passengers while away the journey by listening to music, so it is very easy to ignore the announcements if you so desire.
    Although take up of GPS enabled smartphones is on the increase, not everybody has one. There is also the issue that some people are wary of using an expensive looking piece of technology in public. A “talking bus” is a simple solution for everybody, irrespective of whether they can afford a smartphone.

  3. The prospect of new legislation seems like a sledgehammer to crack a nut – I know many bus operators would like to introduce such a system, but it costs money and is unlikely to happen in the near future, especially given recent rises in fuel duty paid by bus companies. Of course in London, such systems have effectively paid for by the taxpayer, either through direct TfL subsidy or the resulting higher tender costs by operators to run routes where more high-tech kit is required.

  4. I have downloaded no less then 20 app in last six years. (yes, started with N70). Never found one that worked as good as ‘Talking Buses’ system. A reliable ‘Talking Buses’ system will cost you around £1200. PSV regulation take care of non functioning items on vehicles, this way buses with fault will not be used. (similar to: Stop bell not working? Bus can not go out)

    Philip has good points about noisy BUS and traffic etc. Phill, think about this. ‘Talking Buses’ system is there for all of us. Here is a list, I am sure you can add few more.
    (1) People with hearing problem. Strange isn’t it? First on my list has no use of ‘talking’ part of the system but he/she will use visual part of it!
    (2) People with vision difficulty. They will rely on ‘talking’ part of the system. Vision impaired person do hear much more than one without the difficulty. Try this, in noisy environment; shut your eyes and just listen to conversation. You will hear much more than bargained for!
    (3) Jim in London
    (4) A tourist in Shenzhen. (English spoken all over the world! However Phil’s customised smartphone can be more useful)
    (5) ………………

  5. I always wondered how blind people flagged down the right bus, as they rarely if ever come in the order that they are scheduled. I look down the road and see the number of the bus, I know they can hear it coming (maybe not the new hybrid ones!), but how do they know which bus it is? Same with getting off at the right stop, they either ask someone to let them know when they reach the right stop or they count the stops or get a feel of the direction/speed/twists/turns of the route. Obviously it’s impossible to memorise the motion of every single bus route in Manchester, and it’s bound to be different each time due to factors such as traffic and diversions due to road works.

    Talking buses would essentially be exactly the same as the system in trains and trams I guess, so I don’t know how anyone can really object. There are already so many annoying noises on the bus as it is, crying babies, people talking obnoxiously loud on the phone, kids pumping out poor quality music or even drunken students screaming directly into each other’s faces.

    My radically over engineered solution would be smart robotic guide dogs, like a futuristic AIBO that can actually go on Google maps and tell you where to go, and of course when to get on and off the bus…

  6. As a Visually Impiared person myself, I only wish the government local authorities and the bus operators would stop trying side step this issue and keep putting it on the back burner as if it doesn’t or ViP’s within the their communities are being treated by these organisation as if they are of no consequence to the rest of socidety. I personally struggle quite when come using buses and I thinking of seriously abandoning it’s use as sedrious alternative form of transport, I bought this to attention of my local authority Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and my local bus operator First Bus Group and was outraged at the very hostile and negative response that I got fromthis organisations when I propsed such a scheme where I lvie and such bitter oprositoion to this by these people, I just wnat to neighbouring local authority and offered it to them and were a bit more receotive. i have never in life ever come against so much unco-operiative oposition that basically dsimiss as a made hat idea by any so called porfessional bodyawho have dealt with what they consided as a non professional person who an idea that would people with his as well as others who similar problems using buses aand would benefit from this idea to be rejected with such an arrogant and hostilke attitude, any way would that I had jsut proposed to assignate the Queen, the way uit was treat, so I just abondoned the whole idea and went elsewhere, I don’t care if I’venamed and shamed these, because I think they deserve it.

    I for one would to see such schemes as this spread right arcoss the UK, where every busstop is a talking one, no matter how remote the location and every bus service is talking bus service no matter how remote the community that it serves. I’m absolutely distusted that preople with sight probelms are forced to use very expensive forms of transport who are generally very low incomes and living either on or near the poverty line, it’s like we have steped back by 200 years and I wouldn’t believe unless someone told me that I was living in the 21st century and the solutions that I was given is carry a white stick and ask the driver and trust to luck, Bus drivers today have somuch responsibity andso much on their minds when they are actually behind the wheel, that they do tend to forget or not remember and after all they are only human and this happens to the best of us and that is not sufficiently good enough anymore. We have the technology to do this , so letsstop messing about and do it and no more excuses please

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