Difficulties are encountered by a substantial minority of bus passengers when boarding and alighting, due to the steps at the entrance/exit of conventional buses. Some of these people encounter problems because of impaired mobility, with those in wheelchairs being unable to use conventional services, whilst others have difficulties with luggage or assisting small children. Efforts are being made to make bus services more accessible. Commercially, this increases the proportion of society who are potential passengers, whilst allowing less mobile people access to a useful alternative form of transport. New low-floor buses are able to kneel at stops to reduce the vertical gap between the kerb and the floor of the bus, and have no steps at the doorways to negotiate. Ramps were provided on the services surveyed, which bridged the gap between the bus floor and kerb, allowing access for wheelchair users. Surveys have been performed to appraise the impact of these buses on five routes in London and one in North Tyneside. Amongst the information collected was passengers' perception of the services, bus type preference, and any improvements in ease of access (including their effect on boarding and alighting times). Information from operators was used to assess the difference in running costs of low-floor buses, and their effect on patronage. Since the London and North Tyneside trials were commenced there has been rapid growth in the use of low-floor buses in the UK and it is evident that vehicles of this type will become the norm in order to meet the forthcoming regulations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which will require new buses to be fully accessible. (A)

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