Imperial welcomes operator returns to service

Sustainable Bus Transport

Bus services returning to normal

News that bus services across the UK are resuming this month as lockdown restrictions are eased has been welcomed by leading supplier of OE bus parts, Imperial Engineering, as a report suggests that public transport use could be 20% lower than pre-pandemic levels once the period of movement restrictions is over.

Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that its buses will return to front-door boarding, with passengers required to touch in with Oyster, contactless and concessionary cards. This follows extensive work by University College London’s (UCL) Centre for Transport Studies and the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering to assess the risks for drivers.

UCL analysis found that the steps that TfL has taken, which include a film layer added to screens and sealing off gaps around the screen as a whole, including around the Oyster reader, substantially reduces the risk of transmitting infection. This is on top of a rigorous cleaning regime where cabs, handrails and other regularly touched areas, are treated with hospital-grade anti-viral disinfectant. It’s anticipated that all London buses will have returned to front-door boarding by mid-June.

To further ensure the safety of customers and bus drivers, new limits to the number of customers on board at any one time are being introduced, to comply with social distancing wherever possible. Double-decker buses will be able to carry 20 customers, whilst single-deckers will carry between six and 10 customers.

Claire Mann, TfL’s Director of Bus Operations, said, “Bus drivers have played a heroic role during the pandemic, ensuring that essential travel has been maintained and that NHS workers have been able to get to work. The bus network is now supporting London’s safe and sustainable recovery by ensuring that customers can more easily maintain a safe social distance.”

Stagecoach service levels

Nationally, Stagecoach has announced that it is returning to 70% of pre-Covid-19 service levels with a range of measures to keep drivers and passengers safe with a further uplift to around 80% planned by mid-June.

Stagecoach Chief Executive, Martin Griffiths, has called on the government to collaborate with the bus industry to create a joint operational and investment plan for the delivery of sustainable networks after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. That should be followed, he says, by a strategy that would see national and local governments introduce “radical, permanent changes” to infrastructure and planning policy that will favour public transport use.”

In terms of coach services, National Express will be resuming services on 1 July. Drivers and coach station staff will be provided with PPE that includes gloves, masks and visors and a supply of hand sanitiser, which will also be placed on vehicles and in coach stations. Screens will be fitted at ticket desks and on coaches between the driver and the passenger cabin. Each coach will receive a daily ‘fogging’ disinfection and an additional filter to reduce bacteria and improve air quality will be fitted to air-conditioning systems. National Express says that passengers “will be asked to fill vehicles from the back and empty from the front, and sit in window seats with aisle seats blocked off.”

Notably, the government has this week announced that all passengers on public transport must provide and wear their own face coverings from 15th June, or operators will be able to refuse them travel.

John Dwight, Sales Director of Imperial Engineering, which supplies OE bus parts to hundreds of operators across the country, said:

“The pandemic has brought huge challenges to bus and coach operators across the UK and there have been many examples of stoicism and acts of kindness. Imperial Engineering is therefore very pleased to acknowledge a steady resumption of services in accordance with safe practices and our business stands ready to support customers as vehicles return to service.”