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Coronavirus – what changes to bus and tram services means for passengers

Our buses and trams carry most of us on public transport across Great Britain. Getting us to places of work, education, shopping, medical appointments and – normally – places to relax and enjoy ourselves.

In recent weeks the number of us using buses and trams has fallen significantly as we take heed of official advice designed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Bus and tram operators have, until very recently, been running their full timetables. However, that has started to change – both because there are fewer passengers and because staff illness or precautionary self-isolation is starting to bite. There is no point in running empty buses but continuing to provide a decent network is essential for those of us who need to support family and friends or need to get to essential jobs that can’t be done from home. And that must be done against a backdrop of the inevitable impact on hard-working frontline transport staff.

We are now seeing bus and tram operators and transport authorities introduce, or announce plans to introduce, reduced patterns of service and timetables. So, Transport Focus has put together some principles to protect the interests of local bus and tram users in this fast-moving situation. Change is coming, but the passengers must not be forgotten.

First, we’ve been working closely with the bus and tram industry, including the Confederation of Passenger Transport, the major bus operators, transport authorities and governments across Britain. We have shared our ‘principles for amending transport timetables’ to help organisations identify the priorities for those who will need to continue using public transport. Tomorrow our Director David Sidebottom, who is a member of the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s Board, will be joining Andy Burnham and senior officials from transport companies across that city region to discuss plans to deal with the coronavirus and implications for the transport network.

Secondly, we are pushing operators and authorities to make refunds fairer on various forms of season ticket if people no longer need to travel. The rules vary from operator to operator and between areas, but it’s important that passengers aren’t out of pocket at this difficult time. You shouldn’t have to pay to go to work if you are required to work from home!

We will be tracking the scale and impact of changes and will highlight examples of best practice on season ticket refunds, communication of service changes and more generally ‘doing the right thing’ by passengers, local communities and employees at this very difficult time.

Finally, we’ve updated our summary of refund information and have published a new guide to how rail season ticket refunds work.

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