Leeds bus services face a “painful couple of weeks” – as social distancing measures could see people stranded at bus stops, writes Chris Young.
New guidance designed to limit the spread of Coronavirus would see public transport placing limits on passenger amounts – and this could mean as few as 19 people being allowed on a double decker bus at a time.
At a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport committee concerns were raised that this could lead to bus drivers having to refuse to pick up passengers, even key workers, because they are already above social distancing capacity.
The impact of Coronavirus was discussed at a meeting of the Committee today – held over the Zoom app because physical meetings were stopped due to lockdown.
Members heard that the bus and rail system was currently coping with social distancing restrictions due to the plummeting numbers of passengers using services.
But as more people return to work like the Government has suggested, it may be more difficult to run safe services.
Dave Pearson, Director of Transport Services, said:
“We expect a steady build up of people using public transport as employees start going back to work.”
From Monday the number of services provided by Northern Rail will increase from 45 percent of normal services to 63 percent.
And Mr Pearson said that by June 1 the amount of buses operating in the area will have risen from 50 per cent of normal services to 70 or even 80 per cent.
Changes were being made to make sure services comply with social distancing recommendations. He added:
“We expect buses to get busier, for trains to get busier, and that creates challenges and real risks that people could be left at bus stops or at rail stations.”
Councillor Neil Buckley (Cons, Alwoodley) said:
“Someone in a vital job could be waiting at a bus stop, but then the bus comes and is already 20 per cent full. Does it mean the bus can’t stop? It’s nonsense isn’t it?”
Chris of the Committee Councillor Kim Groves warned councillors they should expect more complaints from workers without cars who may find themselves unable to get to work at some times because of limits on public transport.
Paul Matthews, from First Bus, said maximum capacity on buses with social distancing measures, being introduced next week, would see double deckers able to carry just 19 passengers. He said:
“That really does run the risk of buses going past critical workers going to where they need to go.
“As more and more people travel, that will become more and more difficult. I think we are in for a painful couple of weeks until the service is restored to some sort of normality.
“But even then it will pose challenges when we need to put more and more vehicles on high frequency corridors to make sure we can pick up people who have been left behind.
“Although we will receive criticism I’d ask you to bear with us, we’re trying to do the best we can in very difficult situations.”
Pete Myers from Northern Rail said the capacity of their trains would be considerably reduced, and it would be difficult for staff to “police” social distancing.