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New London electric bus sound could pose dangers, warns Unite

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Unite the union has warned that the new sound chosen for London’s electric buses creates dangers for road users and pedestrians as it sounds nothing like a traditional bus.


The sound which is being trailed in January has been described as sounding “like a spaceship”. It is argued that an artificial sound is necessary as electric buses are very quiet and so can potentially cause dangers for blind and partially sighted pedestrians.

Unite were initially consulted last year on some potential sounds for London buses but firmly rejected the one’s suggested as they did not sound like a bus.

No further consultation took place and Unite which represents over 20,000 London bus drivers was not aware that the “spaceship” sound would begin to be trialled this month.

Unite says sounds being trialed on electric buses sound like a spaceship and will confuse people. Photograph: iStock

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."

Unite points out that today people are increasingly distracted when walking, due to the use of electronic devices, making 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," continued Murphy. 

“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," he added. 

Unite has written to urge Transport for London to pause the rollout of the new sound, undertake a wider consultation with all stakeholders and agree a sound like a bus.

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