Driver in angry confrontation with wheelchair user as he tries to board London bus

Sean Morrison

A wheelchair user caught on video the moment he had an angry confrontation with the driver of a London bus.

Chris Stapleton, 60, became involved in a heated argument with the female driver as he tried to board the bus in Wandsworth on Wednesday.

The driver of the bus became frustrated with retired IT consultant Mr Stapleton when he began filming her after he asked her to tell other passengers to make room so he could board the bus.

She called Mr Stapleton “selfish” and “ignorant”, before adding: “No one put you in there, but we must show you pity because [of] the law.”

The incident comes after a Supreme Court case in January ruled that drivers must do more to accommodate wheelchair users on public transport.

Mr Stapleton, who was travelling to his home in Tooting from a medical appointment, said he was at first denied access to the number 44 bus because the disabled space was occupied by buggies.

The driver had said there was no room for him.

The driver launched into a rant after Mr Stapleton attempted to join the bus

“Drivers are now obliged to make a strong effort to persuade anyone who is obstructing the wheelchair space to make way. And I was not even insisting that I get on the bus,” he told the Standard.

“I just thought it [her comment] was inappropriate. I was indignant. I was really angry."

TfL said it was “urgently” investigating the incident.

Mr Stapleton, who uses a wheelchair because he has multiple sclerosis and is a member of campaign group Transport for All, uploaded the footage to YouTube.

In the footage, he could be heard telling the driver that the law states that drivers must ask those with buggies to make way for disabled people and that if she did not she would face disciplinary action.

The driver grew frustrated when Mr Stapleton got out his camera and repeatedly asked: "Why are you filming me?". She then went to ask passengers occupying the disabled space to make room.

When she returned to the drivers' cab, she said: “You’re ignorant and selfish. No one put you in there, but we must show you pity because [of] the law.

“You have no manners. Put it [the footage] on News at Ten because I watch that channel.”

Mr Stapleton said those who were occupying the wheelchair space on the bus, which had stopped in Earlsfield Road, left the bus when she eventually asked them if they would like to move to make room for him.

He was then able to board the bus and returned to his home just before midday.

Mr Stapleton, who complained to Transport for London, said: “The first thing TfL said to me was that the driver was not following guidance. Guidance is not enough. It’s not a strong enough word. [TfL] This is mandatory.”

The wheelchair user was branded “selfish” and “ignorant” by the woman

TfL said in statement that it was appalled by the footage, and apologised to Mr Stapleton.

Claire Mann, TfL’s Director of Bus Operations, said: “We are appalled by this and apologise to our customer. An urgent investigation is underway.

“We expect the highest standards from bus operators and their drivers and something has clearly gone wrong here."

“We work hard to ensure that bus operators are regularly reminding their drivers that the priority space is for wheelchair-users.”

GoAhead is the bus company that operates this route on TfL's behalf.

A spokesman for the company said the diver has been "reminded of the need to remain professional in all situations, irrespective of the prevailing circumstances".

"We apologise for any distress caused following an exchange between our driver and the passenger," he said.

"In this instance, our driver ultimately cleared the wheelchair/buggy area and the wheelchair user subsequently completed a journey."

The spokesman added: "We're in the business of safely transporting all our passengers and we seek to do so in a professional manner, with due regard to the law and TfL's rules."

It comes after wheelchair user and Lib Dem peer Baroness Sal Brinton was last month also refused access to a London bus after the driver refused to ask a parent to move their buggy.

In January this year, a disabled man won a Supreme Court battle following a dispute with a woman with a buggy over wheelchair space on a bus.

Despite winning the case, the judgement fell short of making it a legal requirement for companies to compel non-wheelchair passengers to move from priority areas.

The case was brought by wheelchair user Doug Paulley after he was refused entry to a FirstGroup bus in 2012 when a mother with a pushchair refused to move.

Disability charity Scope said the court win was an "important milestone".