New bus network should age-proofed and phased-in, says Age Action

Charity for elderly urges attention to walk time between routes and buses to hospitals

Age Action is calling for any walk time between  buses to be “age-proofed” with regard to the needs of older people. Photograph: Alan Betson

Age Action is calling for any walk time between buses to be “age-proofed” with regard to the needs of older people. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A new bus network for the capital should be introduced on a phased basis, Age Action has said.

In its submission to the National Transport Authority (NTA), the charity for older people said callers to its helpline “frequently” expressed concerns about proposed changes to direct routes to hospitals.

The submission said any walk time between transferring buses should be “age-proofed” with regard to the particular needs of older people.

More than 20,000 submissions were received by the NTA in relation to the redesign of the bus network when public consultation closed at the end of last month. The NTA said a revised network would be published in early 2019 and there would be further public consultation.

Age Action said it welcomed a commitment within the BusConnects plan to address poor orbital service, decrease the complexity of the capital’s bus service and increase the frequency of buses.

“However, callers to Age Action’s helpline frequently express concerns about proposed changes to current direct (and often high-frequency) routes to hospitals. Hospital and other medical appointments may often be scheduled early in the morning thus requiring older people to travel on early bus services,” the submission said.

Covered shelters

“Many callers to our service have cited worries over proposed changes in the draft plan where their direct routes to Beaumont Hospital and St James Hospital will be changed. The retention of direct routes serving the main hospitals is needed.”

The charity said covered shelters in a convenient location with adequate seatingwas required and any proposed walk between interchanging bus stops should be “safe, efficient and short”.

Under the BusConnects plans, current bus numbers would be replaced by a new lettering system from A to G, indicating seven main routes through the city, with buses running every four to eight minutes on these “core corridors”.

Radial bus routes would be supplemented by frequent orbital services, enabling passengers to switch from one bus to another at no extra charge. The plan acknowledges some bus users who currently have a direct route into the city centre from where they live would have to change buses to reach their destination but says journey times will be significantly shorter.

Limited mobility

Age Action said it is not yet clear how any changes to an orbital system will impact upon commuters, particularly older people and those with limited mobility, and therefore suggested a new network be introduced on a phased basis.

“This will allow for the proper review of evidence and proof that the new system is meeting passenger needs,” it said.

The charity said any proposed changes that did not reflect the particular needs of older people would simply see them unable to travel or use the service.

“This will result in older people who are unable to drive missing medical appointments, facing increased social isolation and having to rely on friends or family for transport.”

The NTA previously said the new network would not be rolled out in stages.

“It would be very hard to do a quadrant or a part of it and then have the other network being in parallel with differing numbering and timetables. You would have to do it in one go,” said Gráinne Mackin, head of communications for BusConnects.