Technology takes strain out of bus journeys for the blind in Leeds

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Transport bosses in Leeds have launched a scheme designed to make life easier on the buses for blind and visually impaired people.

The system uses mobile data technology such as GPS and Wi-Fi to provide real-time on-board audio announcements about upcoming stops.

Bus firm First is trialling the set-up over the next eight weeks on three of the popular hop-on, hop-off CityBus services that operate in the centre of Leeds.

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The pilot is being staged in partnership with London-based technology agency Rise Digital Media as well as the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) and the Confederation of Passenger Transport.

It will run until January 16, with VisitLeeds and Guide Dogs among the organisations that will be giving feedback on how the NextStop system is working.

Debbie Linford, Guide Dogs community engagement officer for North and West Yorkshire, said: “I am delighted that First Bus are introducing this pilot which I hope will be successful and extended to more bus routes.

“Talking Buses are essential to enable people who are blind or partially-sighted to use buses with confidence, as well as improve the experience of bus travel for all passengers, including elderly people, commuters and tourists.”

Paul Matthews, managing director of First West Yorkshire, said: “We are committed to making our services as accessible as possible to all of our passengers.

“We are therefore very excited about this pilot which we think has the potential to revolutionise bus travel for all passengers as well as the blind and visually impaired community.”

Coun Eric Firth, deputy chair of the WYCA transport committee, said: “I’m pleased to see First piloting this valuable new service which, at last month’s West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport committee, we urged bus operators to investigate.

“We know that up-to-date and reliable travel information gives people more confidence in the public transport network and that this kind of ‘next stop’ information on buses is particularly useful for people with impaired sight or hearing so I look forward to seeing the outcome of this pilot.”

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