Bus service frequencies increased to support social distancing as lockdown eased

Photo of passengers socially distancing on the lower deck of a bus.
Social distancing on the lower deck of a First West of England bus.

Bus operator First West of England has introduced new timetables on many routes, including Bradley Stoke’s 73 and M1 MetroBus services, to support social distancing for customers who need to use public transport as the government continues to ease the Covid-19 (coronavirus) lockdown.

The new timetables are valid from Sunday 31st May for the 73 service and Monday 1st June for the M1 MetroBus service.

The 73 service will now run ‘every 30mins’ for most of the day Monday to Friday and ‘every hour’ on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

The frequency of the M1 MetroBus service is increased to ‘every 15mins’ for most of the day Monday to Friday and ‘every 30mins’ on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

The move follows further funding being made available to bus operators in England by the Department for Transport (DfT).

This new funding follows on from the current scheme that is due to end in June and will provide an additional £254m to support an increase in bus service levels across the country, as the introduction of new social distancing measures reduces the capacity on-board.

The increased frequencies will ensure that social distancing can continue to be met by customers who need to use the bus for travel, in line with government guidance.

James Freeman, managing director at First West of England said:

“We welcome the additional funding from the DfT, which will enable us to increase services and support the continued wellbeing of our passengers and drivers through ensuring safe travel on our buses. This is critical as more employees start returning to work following the government’s announcement that non-essential shops can reopen in mid-June.”

“All our vehicles are now fitted with new measures to ensure that customers who need to travel can adhere to the government’s social distancing guidelines. This includes signage to advise customers on where to sit to keep a safe distance and new technology to help drivers monitor the number of passengers onboard at any one time.”

Bus capacity is now at 25 percent on First West of England services. On a double-decker, limits of 8 passengers on the lower deck and 12 passengers on the upper deck will be in force. When a bus reaches its capacity, the driver will show a “SORRY BUS FULL” display on the destination screen.

Photo of signage showing limits of 8 passengers on the lower deck and 12 passengers on the upper deck.
Social distancing signage on a First West of England bus.

James added:

“We are working very closely with the West of England Combined Authority (Weca) to ensure that we continue to provide a sufficient level of service for those who do not have an alternative to using the bus.

“Although customer numbers remain low, we are glad to be putting more buses on selected routes to ensure safe travel in line with Government guidance.

“We would ask that commuters and the general public only use the bus if they do not have any other option. Similarly, we hope employers across the region can play their role in reducing the strain on the bus network by continuing to support staff to work from home and allowing flexible working to avoid peak-hour travel if possible.”

“We expect there will still be occasions when customers may not be able to board their intended journey due to capacity levels being reached. So we are therefore advising those who cannot avoid public transport to check their journey details in advance, avoid busier periods and allow extra time for their journey as they may need to wait if their bus is full when it arrives.”

“The wellbeing of our passengers and drivers is our number one priority, and we would like to thank customers for their ongoing patience and co-operation in these difficult times. As the lockdown continues to ease, we all have a crucial role to play in getting the region moving again safely.”

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West of England mayor, Tim Bowles, said:

“I’ve been working closely with First, other transport operators, our councils and regional businesses to ensure that the transport network can start to get moving again, safely.”

“The government’s advice is for people to avoid using public transport where possible – however, I know that for many residents who are anxious to return to work, there will be no other choice. I would therefore urge all residents to seek alternatives if they can, consider cycling or walking and to allow extra time for journeys. This is also why we will be returning the Diamond card to its usual hours of operation from 15th June.”

“I’ve been contacting businesses and employers to encourage them to support the regional effort through continued working from home where possible or staggering start and finishing times to help ease demand at peak travel times. I know that not all businesses are able to adopt such flexible working practices, but if everybody does what they can, there will be a larger cumulative effect across the West of England.”

Details of all the new service changes are available on the First West of England website at www.firstgroup.com/coronaviruswoe

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