TfL trials new bus sound

Transport for London (TfL) is trialling a new safety sound for its fleet of electric and hybrid buses.

TfL developed the sound, which is played inside the front of the bus, to ensure all road users are aware of electric and hybrid buses when they are moving at slow speeds. The sound will play until the bus reaches 12mph, or when it is reversing or stationary at bus stops. When travelling above 12mph, the bus is considered to be making enough noise that an alert is unnecessary. The pitch of the sound will vary with the speed of the vehicle, helping people know where the bus is and which direction it is going. The sound is being trialled first at varying volumes on the Go Ahead London-operated 100 bus-route (between St Paul’s Cathedral and Shadwell) over a six-month period from January. It will also be trialled on other routes as new zero-emission vehicles are introduced. These include the C10 route between Canada Water and Victoria from March, and the P5 route between Elephant and Castle and Newington Causeway from May.

The new artificial bus sound is part of an acoustic vehicle alerting system (AVAS) that will mandatory for all new ‘quiet’ running vehicles to use a system after September 2021. The sound has been developed with input from Guide Dogs for the Blind, London Travelwatch and accessibility, walking and cycling groups. Bus drivers, operators and union representatives have also provided input. The artificial bus sound is one aspect of TfL’s Bus Safety Standard, which works towards the Mayor’s Vision Zero of no deaths or serious injuries on London’s roads by 2041.

Claire Mann, Director of Bus Operations at TfL, said: “We are committed to ensuring the safest buses are driven on London’s roads and pleased to announce this latest development with the Bus Safety Standard as we work towards Vision Zero.

“Working with a broad range of stakeholders and trialling AVAS on the 100 bus route and other routes in the following months will ensure the system is best equipped to alert all road users to the presence of quiet running buses, preventing collisions and making deaths and serious injuries on our roads a thing of the past.”

Union brands it ‘spaceship sound’


Trade union Unite lead officer for London buses, John Murphy, said: “Unite recognises that it is imperative that the new electric buses make a clearly audible sound for safety reasons.

“However we believe that the sound chosen is potentially dangerous as it sounds nothing like a bus.

“In a world where people are increasingly distracted when walking, due to the use of electronic devices it is essential that there is a clear and obvious sound of a London bus.

“If people hear the spaceship sound they won’t think ‘bus’ and could place themselves unintentionally in danger.

“Unite is also concerned that drivers have not been widely consulted about the new sound and there are potential concerns about whether they will find it distracting or if it will affect their health.

“Unite urges Transport for London to pause the roll-out of the new sound, undertake a wider consultation with all stakeholders and agree a sound like a bus.”


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