This category is designed to recognise projects or initiatives designed to make coach travel more accessible to those with some form of mobility handicap.This can include people who are visually or aurally impaired as well as customers who have difficulty walking or need to use a wheelchair.
The Winners: National Express Limited
National Express is introducing a new generation of coaches onto the UK network that feature a wheelchair lift incorporated into the passenger entrance.
National Express has actually been working with the Department for Transport since the mid 1990s to find a working solution to enable access for all on coach services.
In 2002 accessible coaches were introduced on the Bath to London route and their performance was monitored closely. It was quickly determined that the use of a wheelchair lift mounted near the rear of the coach was not a satisfactory answer and customers indicated that they did not feel inclusive.
Therefore National Express employed their own engineering designer to find a much improved solution and this resulted in the new design of lift which is mounted, invisibly, into the front door of the coach. This front door access, which was unique at the time, combined with a unique combination of flooring and seating, has helped to transform the experience for wheelchair users
The easy access coach features a wider entrance and a completely flat floor throughout the coach to aid mobility for all. A streamlined NX Magic Floor Lift is incorporated into the passenger entrance and when deployed, the wheelchair is locked in place and the customer safely and securely uses the same standard three-point seat belt as other customers. Other features include reclining leather seats, air conditioning and a large toilet.
A programme of routes is currently being planned to roll-out the accessible coach across the network, with the whole network being fully accessible by 2012.
NE recomends a reservation to ensure travel at the required time, and to make the most of their dedicated and experienced travel helpline staff. NE has a dedicated Disabled Persons' Travel Helpline team will be pleased to make sure that propsective passengers' booking is made and that the drivers are fully aware of when people are travelling.
Concessionary fares also apply: the fares apply to all passengers who qualify as disabled, as described by the legislation in the Transport Act 2000. The scheme applies equally to both UK residents and overseas visitors - and the fare is available on National Express services to destinations within England and Wales, and to Edinburgh or Glasgow from destinations in England and Wales.
The judges felt that this development, which is well ahead of the statutory requirements, was well worthy of recognition once more this year. Making the network progressively more accessible provides the ability for millions of disabled people to travel more independently and more frequently.
Runners Up: Stagecoach in Oxford: The Oxford Tube, access as standard
The Oxford Tube dedication to ensuring accessibility goes far beyond investing in state-of the-art coaches and includes both extensive first class training for drivers, ensuring feedback is correctly handled and most importantly talking with passengers about their experiences. We can truly say that accessibility isn’t optional on the Oxford Tube its standard!
Promoting the Oxford Tube as the accessible mode of transport has been crucial to ensure that people are aware that they can travel without concern. The Oxford Tube is, in the words of one student at Oxford Brookes, ‘Legendary’ and as such many people are already aware that the Oxford Tube runs a first class service, which includes step free access and a wheelchair friendly attitude.
For those that don’t know, the information is clearly printed on timetables, roadsides, publicity and on the website at www.oxfordtube.com.
The judges praised the comprehensive approach to accessibility and again the freedom it offers to millions of people for independent travel and an improved quality of life.
Bond Coach Tours in Blackpool
Bond Accessible Coaches is a subsidiary of Bond Hotels, the Blackpool-based hotel operator, and provides transport services to people with disabilities and special needs.
The company has a fleet of wheelchair accessible coaches to transport clients both locally and nationally, and has recently announced an expansion programme to meet growing demand for their services. They offer:
- A door-to-door service that picks clients up fromtheir home, and takes them back again at the end of your holiday.
- A range of day trips and tours throughout the stay at any Bond resort.
- Transport services during the stay to take customers out and about wherever they want to go.
- Special trips and excursions to events such as the Southport Flower Show, and day trips to the Lake District.
- Special tours of the Blackpool Illuminations every September/October.
- Friendly and experienced drivers.
- Modern comfortable vehicles with the latest GPS tracking and satellite navigation
Bugler Coaches of Bristol
Bugler operates a large fleet of coaches and minibuses for those with mobility problems. Disabled passengers are always welcome, and the company tries to make as many trips accessible as possible. Their vehicles can be configured for any number of wheelchair users in a group and range from 12 seat minibuses to 53 seat coaches. Drivers are trained and experienced in helping less able passengers to board and to enjoy a trip, and do everything possible to ensure that all passengers are well looked after.
Bugler Coaches have won numerous awards for the care of disabled passenger groups, including this award in 2010, is specially singled out on the Tourism for All web site as working hard for disabled people.
John Flanaghan Coach Travel (now part of Holmeswood Coaches).This Warrington based company has long enjoyed a reputation as company who firmly believe that being a wheelchair owner should not prevent one from enjoying coach trips. The ethos is summed up in the motto 'Equal Travel for All'.
The company offers a range of vehicles from 12 seater mini-buses to 51 seater luxury coaches, all of which can be configured to allow wheelchair passengers the same comfort and convenience as fully mobile passengers. The company provides coaches for days out, weekend and longer holidays, theatre trips and corporate travel.
Travel De Courcey, WarwickshireThis Coventry-based family owned company is rapidly acquiring a reputation for provision of accessible coaches, with 50% of six-strong coach hire fleet being equippred to carry wheelchairs - with up to eight spaces on a vehicle.
Who could be nominated?
The award was open to operators, authorities, partnerships, suppliers or other organisations.
… and by whom?
Nominations were accepted from all eligible organisations, and self-nomination was acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
The award will be won by a project, or a change in practice, designed to improve accessibility for any group of people. The entry must demonstrate the improvements gained, that the project goes beyond minimum statutory requirements and that it is supported by endorsements from those who benefit most.
Entries will be ranked on the basis of the submissions made, which need to:
- Describe the problem(s) that the project was designed to solve.
- Describe the project and how it was implemented, including staff training and development, and explain why this solution was chosen.
- Explain the extent to which disabled people or their representatives were involved in developing the project
- State how the project or service was communicated (marketed) to the target group(s)
- Indicate the methods used to monitor the impact of the project, and any changes to the project made as a result of the monitoring.
- Supply evidence showing the results of the project in terms of patronage or other appropriate indicators.
- State whether the results likely to be sustainable
- Describe the organisation’s accessibility policy and/or codes of practice for serving customers with disabilities, and how the policies are monitored
- Describe how staff are involved in developing and implementing accessibility policies including training and feedback.
- Describe any future plans for further development.
- Include any relevant supporting material.