Scottish independent McGills has called for social distancing rules on buses to be relaxed to cater for increased demand, saying that the current Scottish Government guidance of one metre physical distancing on all forms of public transport means it is having to turn people away at peak times because its buses are full.
McGills’ Managing Director Ralph Roberts told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on 4 May he was worried a ‘healthy return’ of passengers would be placed in jeopardy by the distancing rules not being eased quickly enough. “Bus service use is about 65% of normal pre-pandemic levels and it is growing every week and we have still to reach the next level of the lockdown release,” Ralph said, “so people are going to be turned away at bus stops due to the one metre distancing. It is happening now. Thankfully it is on frequent services so there will be a bus in the next five to 10 minutes.”
He said he was not suggesting that changes to social distancing were made immediately but that they must be made in due course and in good time to allow the industry to cater for the increasing demand.
A spokesperson for CPT Scotland told the BBC: “Data shows the risk of Covid-19 transmission on public transport is minimal compared to many other public settings, suggesting that the measures introduced by operators thus far have been effective. CPT hopes that the next review of social distancing recognises this and allows bus to follow the lead of other sectors and increase capacity.
“Only then can we hope to meet increasing demand, provide an attractive and affordable alternative to the car and thereby contribute to reducing emissions related to transport.”
As reported elsewhere in this issue, data available on the use of concessionary travel passes shows an increase in the number of people using buses recently.
Unite spokesperson Dougie Maguire told Good Morning Scotland that drivers were still concerned over issues of ‘policing’ of passengers on board, and that drivers want restrictions eased in a safe and controlled manner. “Bus companies cannot be allowed to drive the rules on this,” he told the programme. “We all want to see bus services back to full capacity but these restrictions are still in place, and until they are lifted we don’t see that it makes sense whatsoever to have multiple journeys by lots of people on buses.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman told the BBC: “Capacity on public transport is currently restricted due to the requirement for one metre physical distancing on services alongside a range of other measures to help protect the public, passengers and staff from the risks associated with Covid-19.
“As restrictions ease demand for public transport will increase, however, we will still need to manage capacity to ensure physical distancing is maintained as much as possible.”