The Sound of Silence

  • Updated18 February 2020
  • News

An innovative new bus sound began trials on London’s latest electric bus route in January. Transport for London (TfL) developed the sound, which is played through special speakers inside the front of the bus, to ensure that all road users are aware of electric and hybrid buses when they are moving at slow speeds. Without this sound, these vehicles are almost silent which could pose a safety risk, particularly for people who are blind or are partially sighted.

The trial comes ahead of an artificial sound becoming a regulatory requirement for all new ‘quiet’ running vehicles in 2021. The sound has been developed with input from Guide Dogs for the Blind, passenger watchdog London Travelwatch and other key accessibility, walking and cycling groups. This has helped ensure that it accommodates the needs of all road users including pedestrians and cyclists, children and disabled people. Bus drivers, operators and union representatives have also provided input.

The sound will play until the bus reaches 20kph, or when it is reversing or stationary at bus stops. When travelling above 20kph, the bus will make 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 artificial bus sound is one aspect of TfL’s world-leading Bus Safety Standard, which works towards the Mayor of London’s Vision Zero of no deaths or serious injuries on London’s roads by 2041. The Bus Safety Standard is already improving safety on London’s roads by requiring technology that automatically limits the speed of buses and increased mirrors and cameras.

Contact: Steve Newsome