First West of England has launched a series of journey planning tools to help customers across the area feel confident about getting back on the bus.
The bus operator has dramatically increased services as lockdown restrictions have eased and more customers have started getting back on board, but with each vehicle operating at approximately 50% of normal capacity to allow for social distancing, several new tools have been developed to help customers plan their journey as easily as possible.
- First Bus App: our App now shows the live location of each bus on its route, with each bus on the map also showing how many seats are free, including whether the wheelchair space is available. When a bus reaches its maximum capacity, it will show as ‘full’ on the app map and the screen on the front of the bus of the affected trip will show ‘Bus Full due to Social Distancing’.
- First Bus Space Checker: this brand new website uses recent travel data to show when each service is typically busiest at each stop, allowing customers to plan their journeys accordingly and travel in quieter times where possible.
- Bookmybusride.com: this service is now available on three trial routes: Brislington Park and Ride, the Thornbury T1b and the Bath 3b service from Batheaston to Weston. It allows customers to secure a space by booking online before their journey starts, up to seven days in advance.
In addition, all buses continue to be subject to an enhanced cleaning regime. Buses are cleaned every night with a long-lasting sanitising treatment that kills germs on every surface. Grab rails, poles and doors are regularly disinfected during travel.
James Freeman, Managing Director First West of England, said: “Throughout COVID-19 we have operated special timetables to match passenger numbers, first during lockdown and more recently as the country starts to recover.
“As required by Government, we continue to work very closely with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to ensure there are sufficient levels of service to meet the demand for travel, with appropriate social distancing.
“As with all bus operators in England, we have increased our services with financial support from the Department for Transport. We are currently operating about 100% of our pre-COVID-19 mileage, whilst our patronage is gradually increasing – being at just over 45% of pre-COVID levels.
“We are constantly monitoring all routes to ensure that they do not breach the socially-distanced capacity on each bus.
“We therefore hope additional technical innovation, such as Bookmybusride.com and Space Checker, will help our customers plan their journeys more effectively and make the experience of getting back on board as easy as possible.
“We will continue to work with WECA and the relevant local authorities, including the education authorities, to ensure that we can accommodate the growing numbers of bus passengers, including the returning school children and students in further and higher education as of next month.
“Guidance is updated constantly, and we want to thank all customers for their ongoing co-operation.
“We all have a role to play in following Government’s latest advice and regulations, to help get the region moving again safely.”