Social distancing requirements mean that every public transport bus can currently carry roughly half of the normal number of passengers. And with children and young people going back to school and college from 2 September, Buckinghamshire Council is working to alleviate the potential problem of insufficient seating capacity on public transport buses once the new term starts. This work has now received a welcome boost with the announcement of a £560K government grant.
Backed by the newly-announced government grant, Buckinghamshire Council is in discussions with the county's public transport bus companies on how to increase capacity by adding extra services such as additional school-only buses on busy routes. At the same time, the Council is promoting alternative means of travel such as walking or cycling over shorter distances. For longer distances, government guidance also accepts that under these unusual circumstances using the car instead of public transport is an acceptable option.
David Martin, Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet Member for Logistics, said: "Because of the much-reduced seating capacity to allow for social distancing, we've been working with our local bus operators to identify where there are likely to be problems being able to board a bus at busy times, and to work out solutions. The new government grant is a welcome support for us in getting extra services in place for the start of the school year.
"Where it's possible, though, I'd ask parents and carers to consider finding an alternative means of getting their child to school in the autumn term such as walking or cycling for shorter journeys to reduce the pressure on public transport. Even with extra services in place your child may sometimes have difficulty getting a seat. Additionally, you must be confident that your child can manage the requirements for social distancing, face covering and hand hygiene necessary to keep them and others safe on a public bus service."
Note that pupil-only school buses such as those run by the Council are not affected by this capacity issue. The risk of passing on the virus is considerably lower on these services because pupil-only buses generally carry the same children every time, and there is no requirement for social distancing on dedicated school only buses.
We will publish details of the routes where extra capacity will be provided on the Council website by the end of August. Buckinghamshire Council website.