Belfast Telegraph

Translink launch audio visual system for visually impaired Metro bus users

By Ricky Thompson

Visually impaired people should able to use Belfast's public transport with greater ease after the implementation of an audio visual system on the Translink Metro bus network.

The new system will see text displayed on a digital sign which tells passengers which location they are approaching and which stop is next. This will be accompanied by on-board audio announcements which will provide the same information, as is already the case on the rail network.

The installation programme is due to be phased in during 2015/16, with the first phase going live today on the Upper Newtownards Road and the Ormeau Road.

The systems will also be introduced at key bus stops on the Metro network advising passengers via an audio announcement of the arrival of the next bus.

Visually impaired Translink user Elaine Orwin is very pleased with the new system: "Using public transport has been a barrier because I've relied on drivers to find my stops.

"At times I have been left for 30 mins on a bus journey returning back to the station because the driver has forgotten my stop. Today has been a landmark because now I have the freedom of using public transport independently."

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy was at the launch of the new initiative and said: “I am very pleased to launch the first phase of the operation of audio visual information systems on the Metro Bus Network in Belfast.

“The new systems will include audio announcements and visual displays both on board Metro buses and at key bus stops. This will not only lead to an improved passenger experience for people with visual impairments but it will also have a range of benefits for other users such as helping tourists using our public transport system.”

The roll out of the installation programme follows a successful pilot project of audio visual systems on the Castlereagh Road Metro route in 2011.

Gordon Milligan of Translink said: “This new facility will help make the bus even more attractive to more people. The benefit of audio visual information on bus and at bus stops will give more confidence to passengers in particular those blind or partially-sighted who may be unsure of where they are on a journey or when to get off or on. We would like to thank the Minister and his Department for the essential funding to deliver this project.”

Welcoming the Minister’s announcement Andrew Murdock, Guide Dogs NI, commented: “Today’s launch is a huge step forward for visually impaired Metro users.

Guide Dogs NI and the Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee (IMTAC) have been working with the Department for a number of years to get to this point and we welcome the commitment shown by the Minister to deliver audio visual systems on buses.

Having Audio Visual on our Metro bus system will greatly increase access to public transport for people who are blind and partially sighted.”

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