‘Impossible to prepare’ for increasing bus services after lockdown, say Norfolk operators
PUBLISHED: 13:56 05 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:56 05 May 2020
Copyright: Archant 2015
Major bus companies in Norfolk have said they are unable to make more preparations for operations after lockdown due to a lack of information coming from central government.
Public transport companies continue to operate during the coronavirus lockdown to allow people to make essential journeys and key workers to continue travelling to and from their jobs.
But these services are heavily reduced due to much smaller demand, forcing bus companies to take some vehicles out of service and furlough some staff.
The government will review the current restrictions on Thursday – three days later, prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to outline details of the plan to bring the UK out of full lockdown.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said a staggered approach to lifting lockdown would see more buses running, but did not specify what instructions would be.
Richard Pengelly, general manager of Holt-based Sanders Coaches, wants to plan ahead for increasing their level of service, but says it is “impossible” to do so without knowing what post-lockdown Norfolk will look like.
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He said: “We want to get back to normal as quickly and as safely as possible, but it’s impossible to prepare for that when we don’t know when and how things are going to happen.
“There are so many undecided areas, so we’re waiting for the government to give an idea of what will happen.”
Chris Speed, head of operations at First Eastern Counties, said his company is also in the dark and has drafted “six or seven plans” to try to prepare for any eventuality.
He said: “Nothing is fixed until we get an idea as to what is happening. We’re ready for whatever we need to do – that’s all we can do really.”
Union Unite, which represents more than 80,000 bus workers across the UK, said it supports an increase in bus journeys, but cautioned that it must be gradually implemented with risk assessments undertaken and social distancing measure preserved.
But Mr Pengelly said PPE has been difficult to source and the two-metre rule is “not feasible”.
“If you enforce a two-metre rule then you’ll get no more than seven people on a bus.
“And if the government don’t help with masks then we’ll do something else, but it won’t be a two-metre rule.”
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