London buses will return to front-door boarding, with passengers required to touch in with Oyster, contactless and concessionary cards, Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed.
TfL banned front-door boarding in the middle of April amid concerns over driver safety and the reinstatement of the practice follows extensive work by a multidisciplinary team from University College London’s (UCL) Centre for Transport Studies and the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering to assess the risks for drivers in their cabs. The team also incorporated bus operators and the UNITE union to help develop bus driver screens.
The UCL analysis found that the steps that TfL has taken – by adding a film layer to screens and sealing off gaps around the screen as a whole, including around the Oyster reader – substantially reduces the risk to drivers of contracting coronavirus from customers. This is on top of the rigorous cleaning regime where cabs and handrails, along with other regularly touched areas, are treated with hospital-grade anti-viral disinfectant.
Front-door boarding will be reinstated on further bus routes as soon as possible, and it is 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 will be introduced. This will help customers to maintain a two-metre distance between them and others wherever possible.
Double-decker buses will be able to carry 20 customers. Single-decker buses, depending on the size of the bus, will carry between six and 10 customers. The driver will have discretion to allow more customers on board if they are travelling in households or groups.
Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said, “Working closely with unions, TfL has introduced a range of measures to improve safety.
“Scientific advice has confirmed that it is safe for front-door boarding to resume on these buses thanks to these improvements. These enhancements are urgently being rolled out across the network on a route-by-route basis.
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 and save lives. The bus network is now supporting London’s safe and sustainable recovery by ensuring that customers can more easily maintain a safe social distance.”
Meanwhile Stagecoach has announced that it plans to return to 70% of pre-Covid-19 service levels with a range of measures to keep drivers and passengers safe.
Following the government announcement of a new bus, tram and light rail restart programme, the bus operator has confirmed plans for a phased step up in services as more people return to work and other parts of daily life re-open across the country.
This week bus network timetables across England have returned to around 70% of pre-COVID-19 levels with a further uplift to around 80% planned by mid-June.