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Date added: 18 December 2009

Talking buses arrive in Swindon 

Buses are made more passenger friendly
 
A groundbreaking “talking bus” service, which has just been introduced by Thamesdown Transport, is revolutionising travel for many passengers in Swindon.
 
The hi-tech audio system, now operating on six key routes in the town, tells passengers the stop coming up and – if they ring the bell – when the bus has arrived there. Swindon community radio presenter Shirley Ludford has become “the voice of the buses” after volunteering her services to make the destination announcements.
 
The initiative complements a visual system, introduced by Thamesdown Transport in 2006, where the “next stop” is shown on a screen inside the bus. Blind and partially sighted passengers, who are unable to use the visual system, will benefit enormously from the new initiative, and have already lauded it a “godsend”. The audio system – which employs the latest tracking technology – also helps the bus driver who no longer needs to tell passengers when they are arriving at their stop.
 
Thamesdown Transport is understood to be among the first bus companies in the country to use an audio announcement system, which is similar to the one in use on London’s buses.
 
“I believe that only a small number of bus companies in the country employ such a system at the moment,” commented Paul Jenkins, Managing Director of Thamesdown Transport. “This certainly puts us in the forefront when it comes to innovation. The response we have received from our customers so far has been very positive. Until now blind or visually impaired people have largely had to rely on the driver to tell them when the bus has arrived at their stop. Now they will hear Shirley Ludford announce which is the next stop and when the bus has arrived there.”
 
The system is now active on the company’s 28 Scania buses covering the busiest routes. These are 1, 1A, 2, 13, 14 and 17. If the system is successful, Thamesdown Transport plan to roll it out on to other routes when new buses are added in the future Swindon office worker Tony Trevennen, who is blind and has been using buses in the town to get to and from work for 21 years, said the system was a big step forward.
 
He said: “Obviously, the visual display system is of little use to people like me who can’t see it. You have to rely on the driver or another passenger to let you know when your stop has arrived. The new audio system is progress. It gives you more independence. It’s not just the visually impaired who benefit but passengers who are new to the town or are visiting.”
 
Pensioner Kay Sharp, a registered blind person and member of the Wiltshire Blind Association, based in Victoria Road, Swindon, was delighted at the new system.
 
She said: “I think it’s great. It’s a huge benefit to blind or visually impaired people. It’s been given a tremendous response at the association. People there are saying it’s a godsend. This is the first time I’ve come across such a system on the buses and I think it’s fantastic.”
 
Shirley Ludford, of Swindon FM Community Radio 105.5 was pleased to offer her services as bus announcer.
 
Swindon 105.5 logo
“When I worked as a presenter for the BBC someone called me the voice of Swindon,” said Shirley. “Thamesdown Transport asked me if I would like to become the voice of the buses and of course, I was delighted. It will be a huge asset to blind or visually impaired people.”
 
Ms Ludford has tested the system out by taking a bus ride with Lisa Dainton, who is registered blind, and her guide dog. The resulting radio documentary on their trip will be broadcast on Swindon FM Community Radio 105.5 between 9-10am on Tuesday, December 23.
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