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It seems everything’s changing during Covid-19, and that includes bus travel in London. Even though the UK is in lockdown, essential workers still need to move around. To protect passengers and bus drivers during the crisis, Transport for London recently announced several changes to bus travel in London. These came into effect on 20 April 2020, and will continue until further notice.
Why does bus travel need to change?
Buses are critical for many essential workers to travel to and from work, but that puts bus drivers at risk. Transport for London’s 20,000 bus workers have already lost colleagues and friends. Going forward, the changes are essential to protect staff and drivers from exposure to Covid-19.
What’s changing for bus passengers?
Until further notice, all passengers should board London buses via the middle door. This will keep you away from the driver.
When you’re travelling on buses, please don’t sit in the seats closest to the driver. This protects both you and the driver. If you forget, all buses have signs to remind you.
While middle-door boarding is in place, bus travel in London is free. There’s no need to touch-in or touch-out, and you shouldn’t approach the card reader near the driver.
Government guidance for social distancing remains the same on buses: you should stay at least two metres from other people wherever possible. This means you need to wait two metres apart in queues, sit two metres apart on buses, and stay two metres apart when boarding and disembarking.
With buses only in use for absolutely essential journeys, passenger numbers have dropped by 85%. When Transport for London tested middle-door boarding on 140 buses on nine routes, they found that passengers can maintain safe social distancing even when boarding and disembarking via the same door.
What’s changing for bus drivers?
As well as changes to keep passengers away from drivers, Transport for London has worked with Unite, a trade union, to introduce several other changes to protect and support bus drivers.
On the buses
On the buses, these changes include signage to remind passengers to pick a seat away from the driver, improved protective screens around the drivers’ cabs, and regular announcements to remind passengers of social distancing rules.
Transport for London is considering several options for completely sealed partitions between drivers and passengers. This is complicated by the need to allow drivers to communicate with passengers.
Across all facilities
Transport for London is cleaning all of their facilities, including buses, trains, bus stations, depots, restrooms, and garages, with new anti-viral fluid. Social distancing, including appropriately spaced seating, is in place in all depots and rest areas.
Personal protective equipment
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has asked Transport for London to look into the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) for transport workers. At the moment, the World Health Organisation and Public Health England advise that PPE is unnecessary in non-care settings, but Transport for London wants to be ready in case the advice changes.
To ensure drivers don’t feel obliged to work when they’re sick, Transport for London is funding enhanced sick pay for staff with Covid-19 symptoms, or those who are required to self-isolate.
Does this mean everyone can travel on London buses?
No, absolutely not. Bus travel is changing in London during Covid-19, but the lockdown is still in place.
The Mayor of London said, “I would like to remind Londoners that you shouldn’t be travelling by any mode of transport unless it is absolutely necessary, and public transport is only open for critical workers.”
If you’re not an essential worker, help keep the essential workers safe: stay home and stick to the lockdown rules until the government announces the end of lockdown.
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