The first step on the UK government’s ‘roadmap’ to easing of current lockdown restrictions sees schools reopening from Monday 8th March 2021.
I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind all about the current advice and guidelines that have been issued to ensure passengers can travel safely on public transport in the West Midlands.
Advice on how to stay safe when using public transport
- Stay apart from other passengers not in your household or social bubble when waiting at stops or stations.
- When in bus or train stations or on board you must wear a face covering, unless exempt.
- Do not crowd at the doors when getting on board. Stay back, form a queue.
- Try to use mobile, smartcard or contactless payments to reduce the amount of cash needing to be handled.
- Stay a safe distance from drivers or conductors and don’t sit on the seats behind them.
- Please check operator websites for travel updates and further guidance on peak travel times.
- If the service is full, please be patient and wait for the next available service.
- While services are being regularly cleaned, you should still limit the surfaces you touch while on board and do not touch your face until you can wash or sanitise your hands.
- Although we have increased cleaning and hygiene measures, we are currently unable to provide hand sanitisation units at bus stations and stops, please travel with hand sanitiser if possible.
- If you do cough or sneeze, please catch it in a tissue or the crook of your arm and use hand sanitizer straight away. Dispose of the tissue as soon as possible.
- When leaving the service leave a two-metre gap between you and the person in front. Don’t all get up at once and queue in confined spaces.
- Although unlikely, if the last service is full please make alternative travel arrangements and leave plenty of time for your journey should this be the case.
For further information, or if there is a question you have about travelling at this time, we have created some Frequently Asked Questions which can be accessed here.
You must wear a face covering when travelling on public transport or visiting transport hubs.
In line with the latest Government guidance, face coverings must be worn for the full duration of journeys on public transport from Monday 15 June 2020.
From Friday 24 July 2020 face coverings must also be worn in all transport hubs.
Yours protects them and theirs protects you – Scientific advice says that face coverings can help reduce the chance of infecting others while out in public.
However, it is important to remember that face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing and you should still do this wherever possible alongside regular hand washing.
What is a face covering?
Face coverings can be a simple cloth or scarf that covers the nose and mouth. They can be homemade from things you can find around the house or shop-bought.
What is a transport hub?
The requirement to wear face coverings in transport hubs means they must be worn in:
- indoor train stations and terminals
- maritime ports
- indoor bus and coach stations or terminals
Anyone who doesn’t abide by the regulations – and is not exempt under one of the categories set out in the regulations – could face a fine by the police of up to £100, as is the case on public transport.
What will happen if people don’t wear a face covering?
You are not allowed to get on public transport if you are not wearing a face covering, unless you have a legitimate reason for not wearing one. Transport staff may tell you not to board or ask you to get off.
If you refuse to wear a face covering, you can receive a fine from the police or West Midlands Safer Travel enforcement officers. The fixed penalty notice will require you to pay £100 (reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days).
Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?
The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to:
- a child under the age of 11
- an employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
- any other person providing services to the transport operator, under arrangements made with the transport operator, who is providing those services
- a constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
- an emergency responder such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
- an official, for example, a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
- if you are allocated a cabin, berth or other similar accommodation, at any time when you are in that accommodation, either alone, or only with members of your own household or a linked household
- if you are on board public transport but remain in your private vehicle, for example on a car ferry
The requirement to wear a face-covering also does not apply if you have reasonable grounds not to, these include:
- if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
- if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
- if you are travelling with or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip-reading to communicate
- if you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face-covering with you
- if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
- if you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering
- if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example, to check your railcard
To support people with physical and mental health conditions, including those that are hidden, we have produced an assistance card which can be downloaded here. You can carry this card and if asked why you are not wearing a face covering you can show this to a staff member or fellow passenger.
You can also download the image here and save to your phone to show if you don’t have a printer.
Or you can ask a member of staff at Coventry, Dudley, Walsall or West Bromwich bus stations for a printed card. They are also available at Wolverhampton and Birmingham New Street Travel Centres.
Bus cleaning measures
National Express West Midlands present the following:
The safety of our customers and employees is our priority so, in line with government guidance, we’ve put in place some measures to help customers to travel safely with us.
What you can expect from us?
- We have enhanced our extensive cleaning regimes to ensure we maintain high levels of hygiene for both customers and employees and reduce the risk of contact with Coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes extra cleaning of shared surface areas and cleaners jumping on buses at bus stations, key interchanges and stops. We also regularly use aerosol based disinfection containing a high performance antiviral solution – sometimes called ‘fogging’ on the bus fleet. We will continue to follow advice from the government and introduce any additional measures that are recommended or required.
- The expert advice from public health authorities around washing hands frequently, what to look out for and what to do if you develop symptoms, is being regularly shared with all of our employees.
- Our timetables are currently running normally, and we also have a mini-fleet of extra “sweeper” vehicles on standby every day. We send them out to double up where it gets busy so there are more buses available, giving more space on board each bus.
- Our drivers are here for you and if you need to ask them something please keep a safe distance between yourself and the driver.
Top things we are doing to keep you safe
- Enhanced cleaning of shared surfaces
- Cleaners jumping on buses at key interchanges, town centres and bus stations
- Daily fogging of all buses with antiviral solution
- Extra buses on roads to aid social distancing
- Cashless payments – contactless on the bus or tickets on our app
- Buses leaving the depot with key windows open to enhance air flow
Top things to do when travelling with us
- Plan ahead – allow extra time for your journey
- Please wrap up warm as our buses will be colder with some windows open
- Carry and use hand sanitiser before and after you travel
- You must wear a face covering, unless you are exempt
- Sit in a window seat if you can
- Keep the windows open to keep fresh air flowing through the bus
Be kind to and respect other passengers
While passengers on public transport are expected to wear face coverings at all times, please remember that there are exemptions in place for those who can’t (see earlier), and these may not always be immediately obvious.
If you must eat or drink while using public transport, please take your litter with you and dispose of it after disembarking in a litter bin or at home.
Please do not smoke or vape inside buses or enclosed bus shelters.
Please do not play loud music through speakers, use headphones.
And most of all, enjoy your journey!