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Coronavirus: Buses and trains seeing fall in passenger numbers

PUBLISHED: 10:26 13 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:26 13 March 2020

Charles Sanders, managing director of Sanders Coaches. Picture: Mark Bullimore.

Charles Sanders, managing director of Sanders Coaches. Picture: Mark Bullimore.

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The managing director of a coach company has said the past month saw 20,000 fewer senior citizens use services and has warned of timetable changes as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Charles Sanders, managing director of Norfolk firm Sanders Coaches, has said he fears the bill of the pandemic's impact on the company will be 'enormous', with Covid-19 already having a visible impact on his business.

He said that February 2020 saw 20,000 fewer senior citizens making use of bus services than 2019 and this downward trend would likely continue in March - with vulnerable people opting not to venture out amid continuing health concerns.

Mr Sanders also said the firm was already losing business from private hiring of its coaches as large events go by the wayside and that he was making contingency plans for any eventuality.

He said: 'For the last 10 days in particular numbers have been dropping noticeably, particularly in terms of senior citizens. We have no cases in Norfolk at the moment but I think things will get a lot worse before they get better.

'We have had masses of cancellations to private hires and I expect the bill will be enormous for us - but it will be the same for everybody [in public transport]. We will also lose a great deal of our business if schools end up being closed,

'We may well have to look at restructuring our timetable and reducing the number of services we provide, particularly if our drivers themselves get ill - there are only so many spare drivers after all.'

MORE: Coronavirus: 'Many more families will lose loved ones before their time' says prime minister Boris Johnson

A spokesman for First Buses said that while it had not had a noticeable downturn in useage, the company was fully aware this might change.

Steve Wickers, managing director at First Eastern Counties, said: 'The government has made it clear that neither members of the public or transport staff are at greater risk of infection from coronavirus when using rail or bus services than in other public spaces.

'Clearly this is a developing situation and as a responsible transport operator we are monitoring developments closely. We continue to follow the advice from public health bodies, including ensuring the awareness of good hand hygiene with our employees.'

'We are continuing to undertake a high standard of cleaning each evening when buses run in after the days service'.

MORE: Coronavirus: How is the outbreak affecting city life?

A spokesman for Greater Anglia, the region's main rail provider, said that anecdotally it was experiencing a downturn in the number of people travelling - though siaid it was too soon to put any specific numbers on it.

A Greater Anglia spokesman said: 'To help tackle the spread of coronavirus, we and all other rail companies are doing more to ensure our trains and stations are clean.

The kinds of steps being taken include a greater focus on cleaning high-touch areas in trains and at stations, increasing the use of anti-viral cleaning products and ensuring toilets are well stocked with soap and water.'

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