How bus operators will respond to the easing of the lockdown was one of the topics in last week’s LTT online discussion about Covid-19 held on Zoom.
Former Brighton & Hove Bus Company managing director Roger French said: “How are bus and train operators going to cope with social distancing rules and expectations for at least 12-18 months, particularly at peak times?
“In the Midlands, there’s a food warehouse distribution factory where Stagecoach have had to now run four buses instead of one to get workers to work – simply because of social distancing. In the short-term the Government are paying for that, but that’s going to have to continue for 18 months or so.”
Bus company director Julian Peddle said he was waiting to see how TfL delivers social distancing on the Tube. “I’m interested in how the Central Line’s going to work. Because if I can see how that works, my somewhat emptier buses might be able to work.”
Ian Wright of transport user watchdog Transport Focus said the organisation would quiz passengers to gauge their attitudes to social distancing. “It’s quite possible that anything more than a quarter-full is going to look ‘full’ to a passenger. It’s about trying to get an understanding of ‘what’s the new full?’, and it’s certainly not going to be the ‘old full’.”
Asked how bus operators would go about ramping up services as patronage returns, French said: “You’re always trying to keep the supply slightly ahead of the demand. Now, actually, about half the network is being run on both buses and trains for about five to ten per cent of the normal passenger traffic. That gap between demand and supply is quite unique, and it’s a question of when the demand hopefully begins to recover.”
Peddle said: “We’ve written some software so we can put a voting system on our website. We’re going to put up our old timetables, and then people can vote for journeys, so that will give us some idea of how demand’s building.
“I’m really very much in the dark at the moment about how we’re going to go from where we are. We certainly can’t afford to put the timetables back as they were because in a few weeks we’d be dead financially. One of the things we need to know is whether the three months of support [from Government] we’ve been getting will be continued in any form at all.”
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