Guide Dogs organised for the Transport Minister, Baroness Kramer, to receive a card for her birthday with messages from her parliamentary colleagues in support of for audio visual (AV) announcements on buses. Dame Anne’s message to the Minister was:
“Best wishes for your birthday. I hope you have a lovely day.
On your birthday, I wanted to let you know that, having recently joined local Guide Dog users on a blindfolded bus journey, I have witnessed first-hand how disorienting bus travel can be for those with a visual impairment. However, public transport offers a vital lifeline for people with disabilities by allowing them to travel independently and it helps to tackle issues such as social isolation. I do, therefore, hope you will support Guide Dogs campaign and have audio-visual announcements installed on all new buses.”
Dame Anne Begg MP showed her support for a campaign led by the charity Guide Dogs to make travelling by bus easier for people with sight loss.
The MP for Aberdeen South went to a reception at the Houses of Parliament on 2 July in support of Guide Dogs’ campaign to make sure all new buses have audio visual (AV) next stop announcements, which are vital for blind and partially sighted bus travellers.
AV systems are only fitted to around one fifth of the bus fleet nationally, with the overwhelming majority of these buses operating in London.
James White, Guide Dog’s Campaigns Manager, said: “Buses are a lifeline for people who are blind or partially sighted, and we welcome the support of Anne Begg MP for people with sight loss to be able to travel safely and independently.”
Dame Anne Begg MP joined local Guide Dog users and activists Mary Rasmussen and Linda Slessor as well as Guide Dogs Community Engagement Officer Pamela Munro to take part in a blindfolded bus journey.
Dame Anne joined them on a bus journey in order to understand some of the issues people with sight loss face when travelling on buses. Recent Guide Dog’s survey, Road to Nowhere, revealed that 81% of people with visual impairment in the UK say they are unable to enjoy the freedom that others take for granted because they find travelling by bus so difficult. Examples of comments which were submitted by visually impaired people in Aberdeen are:
“I was left in the bus station in Aberdeen for almost 2 hours because no one would tell me when my bus was there, it took a member of the public to stay with me and took me to my bus when it came in.”
“I have many tales to tell including one of blatant discrimination on what was then the 307 operated by Stagecoach Bluebird in Aberdeen.”
Volunteer John Johnston and Evening Express journalist Adele Merson were blindfolded on the bus journey to experience the disorientation that people with visual impairment can feel when travelling by bus.
Dame Anne has been supportive of Guide Dog’s campaign for Audio Visual Announcements in the chamber of the House of Commons and she will continue to press the Governments in Westminster and Holyrood to encourage bus companies to introduce this technology.
MP for Aberdeen South, Dame Anne Begg spoke out in support of Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign in a debate on disabled access to public transport.
During the debate, Dame Anne highlighted the need to ensure buses are accessible for blind and partially sighted people through the installation of audio visual announcement (AV) technology.
Guide Dogs’ 2013 Road to Nowhere report showed that 89% of blind and partially sighted passengers have missed their stop because of the lack of AV and the Transport Select Committee recommended the installation of AV announcements in their report into Disabled Access to Transport. However, the Government has since ruled this out.
A long term supporter of the Talking Buses campaign, Dame Anne highlighted her disappointment during the debate that the Government’s response had been that there was no economic case for audio-visual systems stating that “it is not just disabled people but tourists and those who are unfamiliar with a bus route that benefit from the speaking buses.”
Dame Anne also commented: “This is an issue which a number of my constituents have contacted me about and, having used the talking buses in London, I am aware of the benefits they could have in Aberdeen.
“I have also raised this issue with transport leaders in Aberdeen and I will continue to lobby the Government to see the implementation of AV technology on all new buses.”
Aberdeen South resident and Guide Dogs’ supporter, Mary Rasmussen was one of the constituents who contacted Anne in support of AV technology. She stated: “Talking Buses make a huge difference to blind and partially sighted people. They are the difference between getting off at the wrong stop and having to cross a dual carriageway with no knowledge of where the crossing is. This is extremely dangerous and potentially life threatening.”
Talking Buses have the potential to transform the lives of blind and partially sighted people who were shown to have routinely missed hospital appointments, job opportunities and family occasions due to a lack of talking buses.
Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, has supported Guide Dogs’ call for the installation of a vital safety feature on quiet hybrid and electric vehicles to keep pedestrians safe.
Research shows that some quiet vehicles cannot be heard until one second before impact and, in certain conditions, are more likely to be involved in a collision with a pedestrian than conventional vehicles. Guide Dogs held a Parliamentary reception, where Transport Minister Norman Baker spoke, to highlight the charity’s concerns about the safety implications of vehicles that cannot be heard.
Dame Anne said: “While the introduction of more environmentally friendly cars is to be welcomed, it is also important to acknowledge that we all rely on hearing approaching vehicles when crossing the road.
“Quiet hybrid and electric cars can also impact on the independence of blind and partially sighted people and their ability to go about their daily lives. I would, therefore, hope that manufacturers will ensure that hybrid and electric cars are easy to hear.”
James White, Guide Dogs’ Campaigns Manager, said: “As the number of quiet vehicles increases on our roads, we need to ensure they are safe. Blind and partially sighted people rely on the sound of an engine to cross a road safely. If you can’t see or hear a car then how do you know it is there?”
“We welcome Dame Anne’s support for our campaign. Quiet vehicles must be safe for all pedestrians and we urge the Department for Transport to take steps to ensure this happens”
Anne is urging people to pack peace of mind when purchasing their holidays this year, by making sure they book an ATOL-protected trip.
The ATOL scheme is there to protect people against the risk of their travel company going bust: ensuring they can continue their holiday and return home safely if the company collapses whilst they are away; or providing refunds if they’re yet to travel. And with over two million ATOL-protected air holidays expected to be sold in the UK during January – the scheme will give holidaymakers in Aberdeen South and across the country peace of mind that their hard earned holiday will not be lost.
During 2012, Parliament agreed two key changes to the scheme to widen protection and help people understand when they are protected. Holidays known by the industry as ‘Flight-Plus’ are now included in the scheme, as well as traditional package holidays. A ‘Flight-Plus’ booking is one that includes a flight plus accommodation and/or car hire, so long as these separate parts of the holiday are booked with the same company and within a day of each other.
The second change agreed by Parliament in 2012 saw the introduction of the ATOL certificate; offering consumers greater clarity on how their holiday is protected. Anyone who books an ATOL-protected trip will now receive an ATOL certificate from their travel company as soon as they make any payment. The certificate tells them what is protected, who is protecting it and what to do if something goes wrong.
Dame Anne said: “At this time of year many people will be planning their summer holidays. It is always sad to hear about people missing out on the holiday of a lifetime through no fault of their own. However, if your booking is ATOL-protected, the protection on your holiday should now be clearer and you don’t need to worry about losing out.”
Anyone wishing to book an ATOL-protected air holiday can check if a company provides protection by looking for the ATOL logo on their promotional material, or searching the company’s name at http://www.packpeaceofmind.co.uk. More information about what’s covered by the scheme and how the ATOL certificate works is also available from this site.
Dame Anne is also advising people booking trips not covered by the ATOL scheme such as those without flights or holidays booked directly with airlines, to seek alternative methods of protection such as insurance or paying with their credit card.
www.packpeaceofmind.co.uk includes FAQs, information on how to check if a company is ATOL protected and an explanation of the ATOL Certificate.
Today Dame Anne attended the official unveiling and launch of Stagecoaches new hybrid vehicles. The new vehicles produce 30% less carbon emissions than standard vehicles and will start operating on routes in the city from this month.
Today Aberdeen South MP, Dame Anne Begg, condemned the Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to go ahead with the planned increase to Air Passenger Duty (APD) despite calls last week from Scotland’s airports to rethink the planned hike and give them the chance to compete against European rivals.
The managing directors of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports – which collectively handle more than 19 million passengers – have warned that Scotland and the UK are losing out to Europe because of spiralling APD levels, now the highest in the world.
Dame Anne said, “I am disappointed that the Chancellor has ignored calls to rethink the increase in APD despite warnings that the hike could cost Scotland’s airports around 1.2million passengers over three years, losing the country £77million in tourism revenue.”