Socially-distanced bus with taped-off seats goes on trial on Bristol route
BRISTOL bus operator First has started trial runs of a new socially-distanced seating arrangement.
The company says it will introduce the new set-up, with signs indicating which seats passengers can sit on and some parts of the bus taped off, on all of its services if the trial is a success.
Images supplied of one of the buses prepared for the trial, which started on First’s route 24 through Eastville on Monday, indicate that up to three out of every four seats are out of use.
First also says it is increasing capacity on some services, including the 48 and 49 through Fishponds to Downend, Staple Hill and Emersons Green, with extra buses running 5 minutes ahead of schedule on parts of the route at times of higher demand.
First has been running a restricted timetable since the lockdown as demand for its services has plummeted.
But with the prospect of some commuters going back to work as and when restrictions ease, the company is preparing ways to carry increased numbers of passengers while ensuring a “safe social distancing environment”.
First West of England managing director James Freeman said: “We are closely monitoring our services to ensure that social distancing is being observed at all times for the well-being of our passengers and drivers.
“Now that we are seeing the first signs of workers returning, we have reviewed our social distancing arrangements on our buses.
“In addition to creating extra capacity at busier times of the day, our new seating pilot on service 24 will act as a visual guide to show customers how they can maintain social distancing whilst travelling by bus.
“If it proves effective in helping both our customers and drivers, we will introduce it to all of our services across the region in preparation for more employees returning to work.
The top deck of the socially-distanced double-decker bus.
“I’d like to thank all customers for their ongoing co-operation at this time and would ask that they follow this new seating advice, so we can do our utmost to keep everyone safe.
“We continue to regularly clean all touch points on our buses and our drivers are supplied with protective equipment, such as disposable gloves. NHS advice is also displayed on our buses reinforcing the need for passengers to follow Government guidance.
“We are working closely with West of England Combined Authority and the local authorities across the region to maintain a sufficient level of service. As we see a small rise in patronage on some routes, we are putting on extra buses for certain stops, to ensure there is the right level of capacity for social distancing.
“The situation is constantly changing and I’m extremely grateful to all our drivers and staff who are working hard to keep our vital bus services running for key workers.”
The 24 links Southmead Hospital to Ashton Vale via Lockleaze, Eastville, Broadmead and Bedminster.
The services which will have the number of buses doubled at peak times for parts of the route are the 2 (Cribbs Causeway to Stockwood), 4 (Cribbs Causeway to city centre), 17 (Southmead to Keynsham), 24 (Southmead Hospital to Ashton Vale), 43 (city centre to Bitton), 45 (city centre to Cadbury Heath) and 48/49 (city centre to Emersons Green) and Bath Service 5 (Bath Bus Station to Whiteway).
Main picture: The view for passengers getting on the bottom deck of the socially-distanced bus. Both pictures courtesy of First West of England