Frequently Asked Questions

Are audio-visual systems expensive?

We don’t think that audio-visual systems on buses are expensive. Leading passenger transport specialist the TAS Partnership have found it costs just £2,100 to install AV on a single-decker, or £2,550 on a double-decker bus.

The report says that the cost could be reduced if whole fleets are equipped with the technology. Installing AV also brings financial benefits to bus operators, in terms of passengers finding the announcements useful and being therefore satisfied with their services and encouraged to travel more.

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Are bus drivers already well-trained to deal with blind and partially sighted people?

Unfortunately, our Forgotten Passengers survey suggests that blind bus passengers are often being left stranded and vulnerable.

Worryingly, nine out of ten passengers (87%) with sight loss told us that they missed their stop because they didn’t know where they were on their bus journey. Despite asking a bus driver to tell them where to get off, nearly nine out of ten (87%) people said they have missed their stop because the driver had forgotten to tell them

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Are audio-visual announcements annoying for other passengers?

We want the next stop and final destinations to be announced, meaning this information should be audible, not loud. Regular bus travellers usually zone out or pop in a set of headphones, whereas tourists and infrequent users will be reassured by being given important journey information.

An independent polling company asked 1,000 adults in 2013 in the UK whether audible next stop announcements should be compulsory on all buses: 74% said yes.

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What are the benefits to passengers of having audio as well as visual information on buses?

Passengers know exactly where they are on their journey, and when they have reached their stop. They feel in control of their journey and don’t have to rely on the driver or other passengers for information. This reduces their anxiety and stress, and makes the journey more pleasant for all passengers.

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What are the benefits to bus operators?

An improved passenger experience and travel standard for all passengers – boosting customer satisfaction and the economy, as more people will be encouraged to use the bus.

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Why should councils and local authorities support Guide Dogs in its campaign for the introduction of audio-visual systems?

Audio-visual systems will improve services for people in their local area. Everyone, including blind and partially sighted people, will be able to use public transport to get around, confidently and without difficulty. It will encourage visitors to use buses, which is good for tourism and commerce. Not to mention less traffic congestion on local roads!

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Why hasn't the Department for Transport already made it mandatory for audio-visual information systems to be installed on buses?

The Department for Transport said they have no plans to introduce a new law on AV because they would prefer a voluntary uptake, highlighting the existence of alternative technology (such as smartphone applications) as well as cost concerns. However, the report by the TAS Partnership on the costs of AV revealed that the costs are not high.

A former transport Minister contacted bus operators in the past to encourage the voluntary uptake of AV, but the limited number of buses fitted with this technology nowadays demonstrates that this approach is not working.

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Can't smartphones and applications replace AV?

Smartphone applications cannot replace AV as not all blind and partially sighted people own such phone, can afford one, or have the ability to use it. Also, these devices are not always reliable: the battery could be flat and they would not work in a poor reception area.

These limitations have been also recognised by the Transport Minister: “19% of families with at least one disabled member live in relative income poverty. For them, smartphones may be too expensive or difficult to use” – Transport Minister, 2014.

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Have any bus operators installed audio-visual systems to date?

Yes, many operators have already introduced such systems: Transport for London, Reading Buses, Nottingham City Transport and Trentbarton buses in Nottingham, Thamesdown buses in Swindon, and Brighton Buses are some of the many examples around the UK.

See our map for more details.

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Isn’t it equally important to have audible information as well as visual at the bus stop, so people know which bus to get on in the first place? If so, why are you focusing on on-board information?

It is the bus journey itself which causes blind and partially sighted people the most difficulties.

The installation of audible and visual information systems on buses looks in the short term to be the most achievable and cost- effective solution, considering that the implementation of any infrastructure is likely to be costly.  Some companies have installed speakers on the outside of their vehicles so when a bus pulls up at a stop, it informs the waiting passengers about its next stop and final destination. This provides another cost-effective solution to expensive infrastructure.

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When you say "audio-visual information system", what exactly do you mean? What do they consist of in terms of hardware and software?

In its simplest form, it could be a display monitor or screen in the passenger area of a bus, with the driver making announcements over a speaker system.

A more automated system, incorporating display monitors, audio speakers, and a GPS device to make real-time information on the bus’ location available, would more than likely be the longer-term solution. The technology is readily available and does not need to be complex to integrate, install or maintain. 

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Who is going to be expected to pay for these systems?

Guide Dogs are asking for all new buses to have audio-visual systems installed by the manufacturer as standard.

This would greatly reduce the cost of retrofitting and savings could be achieved through the economy of scale. It would only cost the Government £5.75 million a year to fit all new buses with AV and bring them in to line with other forms of public transport.

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