Talking Buses come to Northern Ireland

After nearly a decade of lobbying, Talking Buses have finally pulled up to the kerb in Belfast. It has been a bit of a slog keeping up the pressure over the past couple of years but we’ve worked hard and had great support from others like IMTAC (The Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee) and The Omnibus Partnership who both speak up for the rights of people who have issues accessing public transport. We were therefore delighted to attend a launch event recently for the roll out of Talking Buses across the bus network in Belfast.

One of our guide dog owners, Elaine Orwin spoke at the launch. For her it was a chance to thank the minister personally for the impact that Talking Buses will have, calling the day a “landmark for people living with sight loss”. She added that “whilst [my] guide dog Chas has given me a world of independence, accessing public transport has always been a barrier. These Talking Buses will make a world of difference.”

Elaine Speaks Av Launch

My excitement at actually getting onto one of the buses was huge but it was more than matched by the group of guide dog owners that came with us on that first journey. One of them, Torie Tennant, said how fantastic it was to finally have a context for her journey “Knowing that I am going to be able to get off at my stop is such a relief but it’s also lovely to finally be able to follow the route that the bus is taking as well”. It was an unintended consequence that hadn’t occurred to me and I’m sure there will be many more benefits that we see in the months to come.

The roll out of Talking Buses will be introduced throughout the 2015/16 year, with all Metro buses being fitted with audio visual systems (AV Systems) which will include on board audio announcements and visual displays advising the passenger of their next stop.

The systems will also be installed at key bus stops on the Belfast Metro network advising passengers via an audio announcement of the arrival of the next bus.

Weeks after the launch I am still getting that same excited feedback from people when they travel on one of the new buses – I’m hoping that by keeping up pressure on Minister we’ll see that buzz spreading throughout Northern Ireland. 

Check out how The Belfast Telegraph covered the launch:

Ni Talking Bus Launch 2

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Andrew Murdock

This week's blog is written by Andrew Murdock