Fame hungry swine that I am, I have this week managed to get my name inserted into the hallowed pages of the Leamington Courier yet again. Lord knows why they don’t ask me to write the entire ruddy paper for them. Hmm. Probably because I’d demand too much money...
Anyway, the background (for those of you that are interested) is that the local bus company, Stagecoach, have launched a brand spanking new bus service this week. All posh leather seats, fleur-de-lys décor and gold trim. And hardly any space for parents with prams or pushchairs – a subject, as you know, which is rather close to my heart at the moment.
The end result was that Karen, Ben and Tom were refused entry to three buses on the trot one afternoon this week because the one and only space on each bus (which is technically set aside for wheelchair users rather than prams) was already occupied by a mum with a pushchair. There was nowhere for Tom’s pram to go so it was a case of “sorry luv, you’ll just have to wait for next one...” By the time they eventually got home they were all tired, freezing cold and very very upset. A 20 minute journey had taken the best part of an hour.
Not good enough! What’s the use of Italian leather seats a-plenty if you’re not allowed onto the bus to use the damn things? Right, thought I: no-one treats my wife and kids like that...
And so you can read the gory details below. The letter was sent to The Courier and to Stagecoach themselves:
Re: Your new Goldline Bus service
Whilst I am very impressed with the aesthetics of your new Goldline bus service as unveiled this week – the Italian leather seats, the plush navy and gold interiors – there has been a huge oversight on the part of the bus designers.
If you are a young mum with baby in a pushchair or a pram your chances of boarding a Goldline bus are severely diminished because of the lack of provision for such devices within the bus itself.
My wife has been refused entry to your Goldline buses on three consecutive days this week because the “space for wheelchairs” was already occupied by a traveller with a pram. On the second day that this happened she was refused entry to three buses in a row. This meant my wife – recovering from a caesarean, our 6 year old boy and our 4 week old baby were left waiting in the freezing cold for over 40 minutes despite three buses having called in at the bus stop during this period. By the time they were allowed to board a bus night had fallen and the baby was due a feed. Both he, my boy and my wife were understandably very distressed.
To be fair I’d like to state that I have no complaint against the bus drivers at all. They were all sympathetic but unable to do anything about the situation. In fact one commented that “this had been happening all day”.
Having used the G1 service myself I couldn’t help but notice that the only space for pushchairs is actually designated as being for wheelchair users only. It seems no provision has been made for mums with young children and babies at all. I rang your Leamington office this morning and asked what would happen if someone with a pram was occupying the space when a wheelchair user wished to board the bus. Reassuringly I was told that Stagecoach would not ask ticket holders to leave a bus once they had paid for a place and the wheelchair user would have to wait for the next available bus as my wife had done.
In this age of anti disability discrimination I can’t see such a response being sanguinely accepted by any wheelchair user. And given the great pains your bus designers have gone to in order to make buses more accessible to the disabled such a notion rather contradicts all your efforts to make buses accessible for all.
Are wheelchair users and parents with newborns to fight it out at the bus stops with the victor claiming the one and only bus space allocated to them? This is shoddy, second class treatment of both parents and the physically disabled. It just isn’t good enough.
I appreciate that a solution might be difficult to achieve but nevertheless something needs to be done. There are clearly more mums with young children in the Leamington and Warwick area than there are G1 buses... this problem is clearly not going to go away and needs to be addressed ASAP.
In the words of Blakey from On The Buses: I ‘ate you, Stagecoach, I ‘ate you! Aw-haw-haw-haaaw!