Bus Operators have faced an unprecedented challenge over Covid-19. They have responded well to the short term challenges and Governments asks to support key workers accessing jobs. Rightly heavily supported by local and national Government funding.
The planning focus has been on the short term, but as we move out of lockdown then the focus needs to have an eye on both short term and longer term. Double decker buses that carry up to 85 people can now only carry 20, and some say that even with masks and reduced 1m social distancing this only increases numbers by 1 person.
Customers priorities have moved from punctuality/reliability to cleanliness and crowding. Operators have responded with App’s not only providing Realtime bus arrival information, but also level of crowding. Operators are also promoting cleanliness and social distancing.
However looking to the medium term, bus use will not be what it was pre-Covid-19. People will be working from home more, suggesting ticket discounts should be for bulk trip purchase not week or monthly travel. Car and cycle use will be up. Some people will be cautious about mixing with others. Then there is the effect of the economic downturn plus Brexit and some universities only planning remote teaching next academic year. Put together we can expect bus demand to be materially down and operators will need to respond by reducing service or more likely networks, unless the tax payer intervenes.
The best approach is to continue the working together we have seen. This would lead to operators and Councils collaborating in defining the network needed for the future, agreeing how this is funded and promoted. SCP have the experience to help parties come together in this form of partnership, whilst respecting commerciality and competition issues.
SCP can also help design (or review others designs) to assess the impact of measures to promote cycling or social distancing on bus operations.