Go easy on public transport says Metro Mayor.

Go easy on public transport says the West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles, in a call to businesses and organisations in the region to play their part in reducing pressure on services as lockdown restrictions are progressively eased.

The Government’s phased plan to get people back to work is underway. The West of England Combined Authority, as Regional Transport Authority, is working with transport providers and businesses to ensure that public transport is increased to meet the needs of businesses and local communities while operating in line with Government guidance.

The Mayor is asking for businesses to do what they can to reduce pressure on the transport network particularly at peak times by advising their staff on how to travel safely and adapting working arrangements where possible.

Tim Bowles, West of England Mayor, said: “We all have a part to play in reducing the pressure on our public transport services as we start to safely ease lockdown restrictions. Capacity on buses and trains will be just a fraction of normal levels due to social distancing so I’m asking employers to do what they can to share government travel guidance with staff and support them to avoid travelling at peak times where possible.

“That includes continuing to work from home if possible, changing start and finish times to avoid staff having to travel at peak times and encouraging cycling and walking. I recognise that these measures aren’t possible for all types of businesses, but if all do what we can, we can make sure travel is as safe as it can be.

“Over the coming months, my economic task force will be supporting businesses to get back to work safely helping them to adapt to new working practices and encouraging new active travel habits. Together, we can get our region moving again while keeping our residents and employees safe.”

Travel advice is as follows:

  • Continue to work from home if you can and stay local as much as possible.
  • If you need to travel, consider walking and cycling or drive if you have to.
  • Only use public transport if you have no other travel options. This keeps services available for those that need it most.
  • Capacity is very limited on public transport due to social distancing so avoid peak times if possible and leave extra time for your journey.
  • Keep your distance from other passengers, wear a face covering if you can, clean your hands frequently and use contactless payment.

James Freeman, Managing Director at First West of England, said: “We welcome the Mayor’s support in getting employers across the region to do their bit in sharing important messages about travelling safely with their colleagues. This will help to relieve pressure on the bus system as the lockdown is gradually lifted. Commuters travelling to work may need to be patient as there will inevitably be less capacity on our services because of the social distancing measures that we’ve introduced in line with government guidance. Together, we are working to ensure that the West of England gets moving again, with the economy back on its feet as soon as possible.”

GWR Interim Managing Director, Matthew Golton, said: “With social distancing guidance in place we are able to carry as little as a tenth of the usual number of passengers, and customers are not yet able to use trains as freely as they once did. We are doing everything we can to carry as many people, safely, as we can. This will make sure that those who absolutely need to travel by train can do so. But I must ask you, is your journey really necessary?”

Business leaders have lent their support to the Regional Mayor’s call.

Professor Steve West, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Businesses have such an important role to play in supporting their employees at this time. This period has proven that we can do so much of our work remotely and work in new and different ways and I would encourage businesses to continue to work in innovative and flexible ways. It is important that leaders and managers take time to engage and support staff through what is a difficult and unpredictable time and ensure that their mental health and wellbeing is at the fore.”

Phil Smith, MD of Business West, the region’s largest business representative body and a member of WECA Recovery Taskforce, recognises the balance that needs to be struck between getting our businesses back to work and the different concerns and challenges that commuting may create for workers and public transport operators alike. He said: “With many West of England businesses still able to exist with a significant proportion of their employees still working from home, we are hoping that those workers who must travel to do their jobs, where possible, will walk or cycle. This will allow the much reduced public transport system to cater for those people who have no other option but to catch the bus or the train.”

For more information visit https://travelwest.info/travel_update/coronavirus-travel-advice.