Australian First Trial Improving Bus Accessibility

The new initiative will improve wheelchair accessibility on Victorian metropolitan buses. Picture: ON FILE

The Victorian Government has announced a trial that will provide bus passengers using wheelchairs and other mobility devices with a safer, more accessible journey with the roll-out of wheelchair restraints across a select number of metropolitan bus services.

The wheelchair containment systems are part of a $157.8 million package of accessibility and safety works included in the Victorian Budget 2022/23, giving Victorians better access to public transport.

“We are creating an inclusive, accessible public transport network to ensure everyone can travel comfortably and safely,” said Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll.

“This innovative research and roll-out is crucial in helping us understand the real-world experiences of people who use wheelchairs and mobility devices on our bus network and will help us improve safety.”World-class research over the past two years, led by Federation University Australia, has looked into the most appropriate and effective ways to increase the safety of wheelchairs on buses.

Using 3D modelling as well as real-world testing, investigations captured the experiences of mobility device users on buses across a range of routes.

Varying driving conditions were also tested to include all scenarios such as unexpected harsh braking and sharp corners. It was shown these systems reduce the risk of mobility devices sliding and tipping, improving safety and stability for passengers.

“This project draws on the combined expertise of occupational therapists, engineers and people with lived experience to improve the independence, safety and comfort of mobility device users who rely on the public transport network,” said Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Federation University Professor Carolyn Unsworth.

The funding in the Budget will allow the research to progress into real-life scenarios, with the first phase seeing the wheelchair containment systems installed on up to 30 metropolitan, low-floor buses across different routes to assess their effectiveness over several months.

Passengers on select buses and routes will be able to position themselves within the allocated space and utilise the newly developed containment system features – creating a more independent, comfortable and reliable journey.

This research and roll-out will help inform the future use of wheelchair containment systems. The roll-out of the containment systems is expected to be delivered across 2022-23.