Stagecoach confirms phased increase in bus services in the Highlands as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased
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Stagecoach has confirmed it will start to gradually increase bus service levels in Scotland from next week in line with the Scottish Government’s plans to re-open more parts of daily life.
From Monday the company will be providing around double the number of services that have been running as part of the emergency timetables in place since March.
Bus services will then be gradually increased, with plans to resume full timetables later in the summer.
As well as local bus links, it includes Citylink and megabus coach services within Scotland.
The step up plans follow the announcement by the Scottish Government of new restart funding for the country's bus network.
It will help buses play a full part in connecting people with workplaces, the high street and other key services as they start to gradually re-open.
Stagecoach has a range of measures in place to help customers travel safely and easily including the launch of a new smartphone busy bus indicator, which uses extensive data and artificial intelligence to provide a traffic light indicator to help customers choose quieter services and maintain physical distancing.
Face coverings are mandatory on all public transport across Scotland and Stagecoach is using social media and information on its buses to remind people of the importance of following the new rules to help themselves and their fellow passengers.
Sam Greer, regional director Scotland for Stagecoach, said: “We remain extremely proud of the fantastic efforts of all of our employees across the country in recent months. Our people have made a huge contribution to the national effort and we’d like to thank every one of them and our customers for their support.
"Buses will continue to play a crucial role in the country’s recovery ahead. As well as helping to restart our economy, they are vital in bringing normality back to many areas of our daily lives. They keep people connected and have a major role in delivering safer, cleaner and healthier communities.
“We are pleased to be starting to step up our services to support the gradual re-opening of aspects of daily life across Scotland. We have a number of extra measures in place to make sure that our services are Covid-19 secure and to help people plan their journeys and use our services safely.
“In line with government regulations, face coverings are now mandatory on all bus services, and this will be enforced by Police Scotland. We are reminding people that they need to wear a face covering when travelling on our services, and we are confident the vast majority of people will do the right thing to ensure the safety of themselves, our employees and other customers.”
A number of additional safety steps have also been taken by Stagecoach to make bus services Covid-19 secure including:
Vital preparations carried out by a team of engineers to ensure the bus fleet is ready for the ramp up in services. Buses which have been parked up during recent weeks will all be deep-cleaned and will undergo stringent checks in advance of going into service;
Continued enhanced cleaning regime which includes at least daily cleaning of all buses with a government-recommended sanitiser, with a particular focus on key touch points, and additional in service cleaning where possible;
All buses will continue to have a protective screen to provide a physical barrier between the driver and passenger. In line with government advice, as drivers are behind a protective screen, they do not need to wear a face covering. However, should the driver need to leave their cab to assist a customer, they will wear a face covering;
Physical distancing measures will be in place on all bus services, which means that each individual bus has around 20 per cent of normal passenger capacity;
Bus planners have worked hard to ensure that the new timetables meet the needs of local communities and Stagecoach is continuing to work with local authorities to ensure the bus fleet is deployed where it is needed most.
Changes affecting Inverness/Black Isle/Loch Ness/Ullapool:
Service 1/1A, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 11 will all increase in service providing more connections around Inverness city.
Services 14 and 21/21A will return (these services were previously suspended).
Inverness – Loch Ness services 16 and 17 will operate to revised timetables.
Services in the Black Isle to be increased include 21/21A, 22, 25, 25X, 26/26A, 27, 28 and 30B.
Service 61 (Inverness – Ullapool) will also return, operating on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.
Service 62 will now extend through to Helmsdale replacing Service 66.
Service 4B, 9, 13, 23, 24, 29, 30A/C, 64, 65, 66 and all school services will continue to be suspended until further notice.