Feature: Understanding the London Bus Safety Standard

12 December 2018

In October, Transport for London (TfL) launched its new Bus Safety Standard – a commitment to safety across the capital’s public transport network, which will feature only the safest of buses, with a vision that by 2030 nobody is killed by, or on, a London Bus.

With the standard, TfL has produced a ‘Safety Roadmap’ highlighting a set of features relating to driver assistance, passenger assistance and protection of bus passengers and other road users, along with a timeline for them to be adopted. The Roadmap also proves guidelines to bus manufacturers of the dates by which such safety systems are considered preferable, and further dates by which they’ll become mandatory.

TfL worked with the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) in order to develop the standard, with both parties consulting with some bus manufacturers and the operators on technical feasibility, timelines and implementation to work towards making the safety measures realistic.

The Bus Safety Standard requires all new-build London buses from 2019 to include systems to assist both drivers and passengers.

From a driver’s perspective, they include Intelligent Speed Assistance, which uses geofencing technology and a digital speed limit map of London to prevent bus drivers from exceeding the limit, along with blind spot mirrors, camera-assisted vision along the passenger side of the vehicle to help detect pedestrians and cyclists when making a turn, and warning pedal indicator lights, which will alert a driver if they accidentally place their foot on the accelerator instead of the brake. Driver Assault Screens will also be a regulatory requirement to help protect drivers.

For passengers, 2019’s phase of the new standard will require high-grip anti-slip flooring, while an acoustic warning system will also be required specifically for electric buses, to help warn other road users of their approach.

The next stage of mandatory requirements will come into force in 2021, requiring a ‘runaway bus’ prevention system that automatically engages the brake and disengages drive if the driver leaves his or her seat, or falls ill at the wheel, as well as Advanced Emergency Braking systems, similar to those already in use in many cars and light commercial vehicles.

At the same time, the specifications will also require greater all-round vision from the driver’s seat, along with high back seats for passenger seats and a number of collision measures on the bodywork, such as wipers and mirrors designed to fold out of the way in the event of colliding with another road user.

By 2024, the requirements will mandate that all new buses have a collision absorption element to their front profile, along with standardised pedals and enhanced occupant safety for the driver as well as all passengers.

The new standard was three years in the making, with TRL evaluating safety issues and testing proposed measures and feeding the results of the research back to TfL.

TfL estimates that the first phase measures will reduce bus-related fatalities and seriously injured casualties in London by up to 75% and up to 66% respectively, with the overall vision to completely eliminate bus-related deaths and serious injuries.