Politicians and transport operators have given a cautious welcome to the prime minister’s announcement that guidance advising people to keep two metres apart will be relaxed to ‘one metre plus’ in England.
West of England mayor Tim Bowles said: ‘This change will certainly kick-start the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries and help our region’s economic recovery. However, it will only allow an extra one or two people on a bus so the travel advice remains the same - only travel on public transport if you have no other options and remember to wear a face covering.
Leeds City Station
‘We all have a part to play in reducing the pressure on our public transport services. Please walk, cycle or use the car if you need to and avoid peak travel times if you possibly can.’
He added: ‘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, and changing start and finish times.
‘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.’
Graham Vidler, chief executive of bus and coach operator trade body the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said the announcement ‘heralds a significant opening up of further sections of the economy', but added: ‘Bus operators already have a comprehensive package of measures to ensure people can travel with confidence, such as cleaning regimes and cashless payment.
‘It is important that the new rules on social distancing provide the flexibility to create additional safe bus capacity so that people take advantage of these new opportunities and maximise the economic benefits. We will be looking to discuss with the Department for Transport how the new rules will apply in practice on public transport.’
Andy Bagnall, chief strategy officer at the Rail Delivery Group, said: ‘Reduced social distancing coupled with extra trains running from 6 July means space for more people to travel by train, so rail will be able to play an even bigger part in supporting Britain’s recovery in the weeks ahead.
‘As well as antiviral cleaning on trains and in stations, we are running longer trains where possible. In return, we ask that people avoid travelling at the busiest times of day if they can and bring a face covering to wear throughout their journey.’