Bus life has taken a battering for the past five months.
Yet the wheels of that blue, white, orange and red fleet have had to keep on turning.
Ayr Bus Station is the hub of the South Ayrshire and Cumnock and Doon Valley operation.
But those typical summer queues are gone, many people simply unwilling to ride the Stagecoach unless it is really necessary.
Capacity on buses is now roughly half due to social distancing. During the height of lockdown passenger numbers were down by 90 per cent - now it remains 60 per cent down.
Last week the company launched a new timetable to cope with an upsurge as schools went back yesterday (Tuesday).
And Stagecoach has gone on a public relations offensive, inviting the Ayrshire Post back stage to see the workings of Ayr Bus Station, where managing director Fiona Doherty insisted: “Passengers can travel on our services with confidence.”
Ayr services routes to Girvan, Cumnock, Greenock and Kilmarnock as well as local routes to Prestwick, Troon and the villages.
Even drivers like Grant McNaughton, below, have to wipe down surfaces.
The firm is having to juggle timings and realises it will “take some time” for passenger levels to increase.
Executives have been pouring over data to create new timetables which came into force on Monday.
They have been forced to create a blend between keeping major routes running and ensuring communities are not cut off completely.
The new timetable has seen a frequency increase on a few routes, but others still running on a restricted basis. A total of 87.5 per cent of the normal services in and out of Ayr are now running. Some ultra local routes - the number two to Prestwick, number three to Kincaidston and number six to Marchburn - have returned to pre-Covid-19 levels. Drivers are now encased behind a screen and are responsible for cleaning all passenger surfaces before they start their next run. They’ll wipe down handrails, bells, seats and poles – and where possible windows will be open to aid ventilation. They don’t need to wear a mask while driving - but it is mandatory for all passengers to wear.
Spokesman Ewan McInnes said: “Some of the seats around the driver have been removed and customers are asked to take responsibility for socially distancing themselves from other passengers. All buses are operating at a reduced maximum capacity to allow for on board social distancing.”
And an innovation on the Stagecoach app has a colour indicator to inform people how busy the bus is heading towards them.
Back at base in Ayr three units have been set up to dispense anti-bacterial soap via foot pumps. Passengers there last week were observing the safe distance code in the queues, and letting people get off the buses before stepping aboard.
Ewan added: “People are being asked to plan ahead to reduce contact, like buying tickets in advance and try and travel off peak.
“We are also simply saying if the bus looks too busy for you, wait till the next one.”
Boss Fiona Doherty said: “People are working and travelling in a different way, but public transport continues to have a very important role to play. The safety of our customers and our employees is always our top priority and our dedicated team pay special attention to regular and thorough cleaning.”
Credit: Ayrshire Post