Connecting people with places
by safely restarting rural bus service
Lynn Hinch Director of ABILITY said “When the pandemic started, quite rightly most of the passengers stopped travelling and we had to suspend services as it was not safe for us or the passengers. With help of a grant from Northamptonshire Community Foundation we launched KIT (Keeping in Touch) program, where the team kept in communication with our customers by post with postcards and birthday cards, and we also spoke with them on the telephone and we found that we were missing them as much as they were missing us and their friends! because a community bus is more than a means of transport it’s a lifeline and sometimes the only opportunity they have to get out. We received numerous letters, cards and messages wishing us well and thanking us”
We never felt comfortable to let our drivers take the buses out and risk members catching the virus whilst so many people were becoming ill and dying. It was also not viable to drive the minibuses around the county with virtually no passengers or to operate a shopping service particularly when so many people started to volunteer to help neighbours, friends and family it was
a real pleasure to see how the community came together as one
The primary concern on board buses is that of social distancing; all our passengers should keep their distance from people outside their household, and we recognise that this is not always possible. The transmission of Coronavirus is primarily through people touching surfaces contaminated by the virus and then transferring that contamination to their mouth, eyes or nose. There is also a possibility of breathing in droplets expelled by another person when in close face to face contact. Our normal front facing seating arrangements avoid ‘face to face’ proximity and the physical barrier of the high-backed seats, plus the use of face coverings and masks will all help to ensure maximum safety.
Transport is vital to support our economy and public services. Social distancing should be maintained where possible but we recognise that on many forms of transport, staff will not always be able to stay 2 metres away from each other or passengers at all times. In these circumstances staff should minimise how long such periods are and avoid face to face contact with other staff or passengers.
You should remind all customers that they should only travel when essential, such as travelling to work when they cannot work from home, and that when they do so they should also remain 2 metres apart where possible.
You may consider the use of signage, e.g. floor markings, to signal 2 metre intervals to facilitate social distancing between passengers whilst transiting through transport hubs and on public transport.
You should communicate that staff should wash their hands for 20 seconds or more and more frequently than normal.
Other customer facing staff that are not on board one of these transport modes (e.g. staff at a train station) should comply with the public health guidance applicable at the time, including principles of social distancing wherever possible.
You communicate that staff should move around the train, plane or ferry as little as possible to maintain distance from passengers. You increase the frequency of cleaning procedures on board and in terminal or stations areas, to ensure all areas are disinfected as often as is feasible.
Use of private vehicles and car pooling
When using a private vehicle to make a journey that is essential, cars should only be shared by members of the same household. Those who normally share a car with people who are not members of their own household for a journey that is essential, e.g. getting to work, should consider alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport where you maintain a distance of 2 metres from others.
If the journey is essential, such as travel to work, and there is no option but to share a car with people who are not part of the same household, journeys should be shared with the same individuals and with the minimum number of people at any one time.
Good ventilation (i.e. keeping the windows open) and facing away from each other may help to reduce the risk of transmission. Private vehicles that are used by people from multiple households should be cleaned regularly using gloves and standard cleaning products with particular emphasis on handles and other areas where passengers may touch surfaces.
We are pleased to be part funded by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The contribution was used to fund the purchase of a new minibus