TfL celebrates 10 years of iBus operations in London
TfL’s iBus has provided greater independence to passengers who travel with hearing or visual impairments.
Transport for London (TfL) is marking 10 years of the iBus system that has improved service reliability and information provision, making journeys easier and more accessible for all.
The iBus automatic vehicle location and radio system provides real-time journey information for customers and has made the bus network easier to use, particularly for people with hearing or visual impairments and those unfamiliar with specific bus routes, and has boosted bus reliability to record levels.
The system was introduced to all buses in 2009, providing audio-visual route, destination and next stop information to customers for the first time.
The introduction of iBus has particularly benefited passengers with hearing or visual impairments, who previously may have had to rely on familiarity of a route or assistance from the bus driver to ensure they didn’t miss their stop. iBus also allows TfL to warn customers of planned disruption such as major events, to encourage them to plan their travel in advance.
The reliability of the bus network is at an all-time high, and this is in part due to the additional benefits of iBus. Through a combination of technologies, including GPS, the exact location of buses can be pinpointed at any time, helping bus controllers to improve performance and reliability.
The provision of this information freely and openly to developers has enabled customers to plan journeys more accurately using apps with real-time information and advice on how to adjust their routes. This provides greater certainty on when the next bus/Tube will arrive and saves time – estimated at between £70 million and £90 million per year in time saved across all TfL services.
The system has seen a number of improvements since being introduced, with changes to improve the timing of the audio and visual messages between stops and additional ‘alight here for’ messages. An on-board clock was introduced in 2014 and last month the system was updated so that when the bus driver is about to make an announcement a chime sounds and an “announcement in progress” notification appears on the screen. This helps customers to differentiate between normal ‘next stop’ announcements and important information from the bus driver.
Guide Dogs London Engagement Officer, Dave Kent, said: “The rollout of the iBus across the London bus network has revolutionised the way blind and vision impaired people travel around the capital. The on-board audio information means that a greater number of blind people are able to travel independently and orientate themselves throughout their journey. Therefore increasing confidence and achieving a real sense of inclusivity.”
Transport for All Chair, Alan Benson, said: “Since its introduction the iBus system has become fundamental to travelling in London. It’s ubiquitous. It’s embedded in the daily travel experience of millions of passengers. We don’t realise how important it is, how much we all rely on it, until we leave London and use a bus that doesn’t have it. This system intended to aid disabled people makes London buses easier and more accessible for everyone. iBus is the perfect example of the benefits of inclusivity.”
TfL’s Head of Technology and Data, Simon Reed, said: “In London we have the largest accessible bus fleet in the world, which plays an integral role in ensuring Londoners can get around and make the most of all that the city has to offer. The iBus system has transformed our customers’ journeys, and particularly helped people with visual or hearing impairments, by making it easier to navigate London, by reassuring customers that they are on the right vehicle and by giving them plenty of notice of their destination stop. It is just one example of our commitment to make journeys easier and more accessible for everyone.”
The iBus platform is a versatile tool and has enabled many other on-board services including “Get Ahead of the Games” messaging leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games advising customers on their travel plans and has also been used to for safety messages and announcing major fundraising appeals.
In 2009, London was the first city in the UK to integrate audio-visual announcements across its entire fleet of buses with others including Nottingham, Reading, Edinburgh all following suit.
TfL has invested £18 million to ensure that 95 per cent of London’s bus stops are now accessible – tripling the number in the capital since 2008. London’s entire fleet of 9,300 buses are low floor, wheelchair accessible and fitted with ramps.
TfL continues to invest significantly in improving the accessibility of its transport network for the benefit of all Londoners. TfL is also working to deliver more step-free stations including Cockfosters, Mill Hill East, Boston Manor and Ruislip and by Spring 2024 at least 35 per cent of the Tube network will be step-free.
In addition to being the most accessible form of public transport in London, buses are one of the most affordable. Customers can change buses unlimited times within an hour for just £1.50 due to the Mayor’s Hopper Fare. Since it launched more than 300 million hops have been made.