Oxfordshire bus service levels increase but coach services still paused or curtailed

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Oxfordshire bus operators will ramp up services from 1 June in response to the latest government COVID-19 recommendations.

Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel and Stagecoach will introduce changes to start to increase the number of journeys during daytime hours on Mondays to Fridays. Customers are advised to check operator websites for full details of new timetables including changes to times on some weekend services.

The increase in services is in line with the government’s recovery strategy to cope with the growing demand for travel as more people return to work following the Coronavirus pandemic. It comes after a huge reduction in bus services during full lockdown, with special services designed to ensure that essential key workers such as NHS staff, teachers and those in the food supply chain could get to and from work.

Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel and Stagecoach have implemented reduced vehicle capacities to help maintain social distancing on-board for people who need to travel. This includes taking some seats out of use and customer signage to encourage people to sit apart. Customers are still asked to pay using contactless payments or purchase tickets from the apps available.

All three operators have also introduced and are maintaining enhanced cleaning regimes on all vehicles. The regimes are carefully monitored, with a continued greater focus on high-touch areas. Extra PPE and cleaning equipment have also been provided to colleagues to ensure drivers and customers stay safe during this time.

From the 1st June, all variations of the SmartZone ticket will be valid for journeys made in the city on all three operator’s services, however, the temporary ticket acceptance of single operator tickets brought in to mitigate the reduction in the services available at the height of lockdown will be withdrawn.

Phil Southall, Managing Director of Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel said: “We’ve introduced a number of measures to give people the confidence to return to work and to travel on our buses. We’re increasing our services to respond to the expected increases in demand as lockdown is gradually eased, and to ensure our customers can remain two metres apart wherever possible. I’d like to thank my colleagues for consistently doing a first-class job in difficult circumstances and our customers for their continued patience and understanding.”

Chris Coleman, Managing Director of Stagecoach said: “The safety of our customers and employees remains our top priority. With the extensive measures we have taken and the support of our passengers, they can be confident our buses will be clean, safe and ready to go. We are hugely proud of the fantastic efforts of all of our employees in recent months to deliver services to keep other key workers moving. Buses are going to continue to play a crucial role in the country’s recovery ahead. As well as helping restart our economy, they are vital in bringing normality back to many areas of our lives.”

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said: “Coronavirus has had a significant effect on Oxfordshire’s public transport system and operators have been working hard to ensure that they meet demand safely. The county council is working with the local authorities and the bus operators to ensure public safety for walking, cycling and use of the bus across Oxfordshire.

A range of measures, are being planned to ensure that passengers who need to use the bus can easily plan their journeys and travel with confidence.

In the coming weeks people will see the result of work that the county council has been doing with partners from the bus companies, districts and city council on plans designed to boost bus transport and sustainable modes such as cycling and walking.”

Express coach services from Oxford remain curtailed or suspended. Oxford Bus Company’s the airline, which serves Heathrow and Gatwick airports, has been curtailed to Heathrow since 19 April, the frequency was also reduced to every two hours to match demand.

Stagecoach’s Oxford Tube service has been suspended since the 6 April, tickets are available to book again from 22 June via the coach services website, although there has been no official update yet that this will be the date the service will officially recommence.