'Outraged' mums launch campaign against bus firm's no-pram policy

ANGRY mums have launched a campaign to force Lothian Buses to abandon its controversial ban on prams.

Local politicians have joined the protest which is seeking to reverse the decision by bus bosses to outlaw prams to keep space for wheelchair users.

Bus drivers have been told not to allow prams on board so that the company complies with the Disability Discrimination Act.

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But unhappy parents claim they are the ones being discriminated against and have now enlisted the support of Edinburgh West MP John Barrett and MSP Margaret Smith to help fight the restrictions.

Caroline Burgess, 27, from Drumbrae, plans to start a petition if they do not get a satisfactory response.

She has written to the Scottish Parliament's transport department and is being supported by dozens of other mums who have contacted her through the local website, www.netmums.com

She said: "I'm absolutely reliant on public transport. I couldn't believe it when they said they weren't carrying prams.

"I'm not going to stop until this is changed. I only found out two weeks ago when I was refused permission to get on a number 26 bus. I was really, really upset. It's absolutely ludicrous to suggest putting a baby on my knee instead.

"I'd get off the bus if someone came on in a wheelchair. But I've only had to do that once in more than 100 bus journeys."

Lothian Buses says it has to refuse prams in line with anti-discrimination legislation. Passengers on the Capital's buses can only take on buggies which can fold up if a wheelchair users needs the space.

The company says it is not a new rule, but many drivers did not enforce it until recently.

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Gillian Richards, a mother of nine-month-old twins from Willowbrae, said she was "outraged".

She said: "I would get off if a disabled person needed the space, but I have only ever seen one disabled passenger.

"We are not permitted in a taxi as my daughters would need car seats.

"I believe that my daughters' rights are as important as that of a disabled person."

A spokesman for the bus company said: "This is not Lothian Buses' decision. It is government legislation, as laid down by the Disability Discrimination Act.

"It's always been in our conditions of carriage, but we have just given a clarification to our drivers."

But bus company First South East & Central Scotland, part of the First Group, said prams and buggies are allowed to board their low-floored buses, provided there is space available.

Margaret Smith, the Edinburgh West MSP, has now written to Lothian Buses asking if the company can find a compromise.

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She said: "This is a real shame when we are trying to encourage people to use public transport more. I appreciate that they are under a legal obligation, and that it is important to ensure wheelchair users can use their buses conveniently, but I do think that it is very difficult for parents travelling with a number of young children not to use buggies or prams."

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