Bus operator Stagecoach has confirmed that most of its services in Kent and East Sussex will return to full pre-lockdown timetables from Tuesday, September 1.
Stagecoach Managing Director, Joel Mitchell said: “We’re really pleased to be able to resume full service to our communities and we welcome the central government and county council support that has helped make this happen.”
School routes and bus journeys will also be fully restored from September 1, with the bus operator offering the full services that it provided for school children pre-pandemic.
Mr Mitchell said: “We’ve now got six months’ experience of running buses safely during a pandemic situation and a whole range of measures in place to ensure our customers can use our services safely and with confidence.”
While government capacity restrictions limit the number of people who can travel on public buses remain in place, the Department for Education has confirmed these restrictions will not apply to the same extent on dedicated school transport services from the autumn term.
Mr Mitchell said: “Every one of our available buses will be out on the road when schools and colleges return next week. Our depot teams across the region will be working flat-out to get buses to where they are needed and we’ll continue to work closely with the county councils, and schools, to do everything we can to maximise capacity and get young people to where they need to be in the safest possible way.”
The bus company says a number of school day bus journeys will operate as dedicated schools’ services which will only be available for young people to board if travelling to and from their place of education.
These services will show ‘School Service’ on the display at the front of the bus, alternating with the route number and destination. Capacity limits will not apply on these services, although any rear facing seats and seats within two metres of the driver will be closed-off and there will be no standing.
Mr Mitchell said arrangements were being made between Stagecoach and other bus operators to run additional buses in tandem with scheduled services where needed.
Stagecoach says it has issued guidance to secondary schools outlining the safety measures it has taken and explaining what pupils should expect when using buses.
Among them are face-coverings which continue to be required when travelling for anyone over the age of 11 unless they are exempt. Stagecoach is urging young people to take the requirement seriously, but show kindness to those who may not be able to wear them.
One of the measures the bus company has taken is to minimise cash handling by not issuing change on the bus. Stagecoach is continuing to accept cash on its buses, but its drivers are unable to give change back. Instead, overpayments are donated to Demelza Hospice Care for Children. The policy has so far collected over £6,500 for the charity.
The bus operator is encouraging all passengers to check its website for travel safety advice and information at www.stagecoachbus.com/SECovid19