Bus operator Stagecoach will begin increasing bus service levels in Kent from today to help get the county moving as lockdown restrictions start to ease.
Emergency bus timetables have been in place since the beginning of April to help key workers get to and from work and for other essential journeys.
Following the announcement by the UK Government of a new bus, tram and light rail restart programme, Stagecoach has confirmed plans for a phased step-up in services as more people return to work and other parts of daily life re-open.
From 1 June, bus services in the Ashford, Thanet and Dover areas will be boosted with further increases planned for other areas of the county. The bus company says services will reach 70% of pre-COVID levels by mid-June. Details of the ramped-up services can be found at stagecoach.com/SEcovid19
The bus operator has put in place extensive enhanced measures to keep buses clean, passengers and staff safe and ensure people can feel confident about using buses, Britain’s most important transport mode.
Scores of engineers and drivers are returning to work this week to ensure the bus fleet is ready for the ramp-up in services. Buses which have been parked up during recent weeks are being deep-cleaned and will undergo stringent checks in advance of going into service.
Stagecoach’s enhanced cleaning regime includes at least daily cleaning of all buses with a government-recommended sanitiser, with a particular focus on key touch points, and additional in service cleaning where possible.
All buses will continue to have a protective screen to provide a physical barrier between the driver and passenger. Face masks are available for drivers, and in-line with government advice, Stagecoach is encouraging passengers to wear a face covering. Update: Wearing face coverings will be compulsory on public transport in England from 15 June.
Government social distancing measures are now in place on all bus services in England, which means that each individual bus has around 20% of normal passenger capacity.
The increase in bus services will ensure that passengers can have confidence in using the bus to get to work and connect them to facilities as they re-open.
Stagecoach says it is working very closely with Kent County Council to ensure the bus fleet is deployed where it’s needed most. Speaking about the phased ramp-up in services, Stagecoach managing director, Joel Mitchell, acknowledged the support of the council and in particular KCC leader Roger Gough for ensuring that community bus services are a high priority for getting the county moving again.
Mr Mitchell said, “I’m hugely proud of the fantastic efforts of all of our colleagues in recent weeks. Our own key workers have made a huge contribution to the national effort and we’d like to thank every one of them and our customers for their support.
"Buses are going to continue to play a crucial role in the country’s recovery ahead. As well as helping restart our economy, they are vital in bringing normality back to many areas of our daily lives. They keep families and communities connected and have a major role in delivering a safer, cleaner and healthier society.
“The Stagecoach team are proud to serve our communities in Kent and we are delighted to begin stepping-up our services. It means we can provide more regular buses and more capacity overall as people start to return to their everyday lives. We’re continuing to work with KCC to ensure we can target services to where they are needed most and we’re grateful to council leader Roger Gough, for his support for bus service provision as a critical part of the regions recovery.
“The safety of our customers and colleagues remains our top priority. With the extensive measures we’ve taken and the support of our customers, they can be confident our buses will be clean, safe and ready to go."
The initial phase of service enhancement takes effect from today with routes 1/1A, 2A, 10X, 11, 111, 123 and 666 to and from Ashford seeing an increase in buses. In Thanet routes 8/8X, 48, 48A and the Loop will be uplifted and in Dover routes 61 and 90 (evenings) and route 15 will be enhanced.
The bus operator is urging people who need to travel to check their website before using the bus. A central web page has been created at stagecoachbus.com/SEcovid19
with all the latest information. Customers can also stay up to date on Twitter @StagecoachSE.