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Reassurance crucial for transport users in any lockdown changes

If lockdown rules change, what will passengers and road users want to be reassured about? That’s a key question that Transport Focus and London TravelWatch will be looking to answer in coming weeks. Maybe it needs some sort of ‘contract’ between transport operators and users – ‘we’ll do this to help keep you safe, but you need to do that’?

We’ll be collecting feedback on travel behaviour and attitudes every week, and we’ll be establishing online communities of different transport users to explore things in detail. Keep an eye out for the first results on Thursday 7 May. That’s on top of the coronavirus travel survey and guidance on communicating changes to local bus services we’ve already published.

Building on what we already know, here are some thoughts about the areas where we all might want reassurance before we start travelling again. Even if it’s safe for governments to change the rules, people may still be wary about travelling – by any means.

Questions about rail, bus or tram journeys

Am I allowed to go? That may be your first question. Clarity about whether your journey is permitted will be important, whatever its purpose. Nagging concerns that you might be turned away, politely or with a fine, won’t help confidence.

And once you’re sure it’s OK to go, you may be after reassurance in a number of areas – for instance:

  • What’s running and what’s not?
  • Do I need a face mask? If so, where do I get one? How strict is it? Will a scarf do?
  • What about the tube? Are the rules the same?
  • Is help still being provided – such as train companies’ Passenger Assist?
  • Are prices and tickets the same as before? If companies are losing money, will fares have rocketed?
  • Will the bus driver take cash? Is ‘contactless’ just encouraged or now the only way to pay? Will the ticket office be open?
  • Will they take my temperature? What if I had to run and am hot and flustered?
  • Will they have hand sanitiser I can use?
  • Will all these checks mean I need to be there ages early?
  • What if more people turn up than are allowed on? Will I get left behind? What if it’s the last bus?

At a railway station, bus or tram stop

People are likely to wonder how social distancing and other things will work at stations and stops. These are some areas where passengers might want reassurance:

  • That it will be clear what they are supposed to do – and clear to others. Will there be a one in, one out system – like at the supermarket? Will there be a one-way system inside?
  • Whether fellow passengers will be sensible about social distancing? What will be done to help people conform – and to deal with transgressors? Will people still swarm round the doors?
  • How will train companies manage queuing? Will cafés and convenience stores have got themselves organised? Will people queue nicely if their train is about to go (and they’re a bit stressed anyway)?
  • What about crowding on station platforms? Will numbers be limited so everyone can keep apart? Who will enforce it? What will happen if it’s raining and people huddle under the canopy? Where will people wait if there’s major disruption?

On the train, bus or tram itself

If the maximum number of people allowed on a train, bus or tram is much lower than normal it raises a whole host of issues where reassurance may be needed:

  • Will people be physically prevented from boarding once it’s full; if so how?
  • Worries that you’ll never get on if your station or stop is after lots of people already have
  • The rules about where you sit. Who gets the bay of six seats? Who gets the table?
  • Clarity that you’ll be allowed to sit with other members of your household
  • To get off, should you stay sitting down rather than queue up in the aisle or stand by the bus driver?

Travelling by road

If you travel by road you’ll probably have fewer social distancing concerns than with trains, buses and trams, but you may still want reassurance in some areas. For instance:

  • That you’ll be safe in your car or on your bike, despite reports of more speeding. Will the authorities enforce the law effectively?
  • That people will be kept safely apart at motorway services. Will there be ‘one in, one out’ arrangements? If so, how will queuing outside be managed? Will some seating be taken out of use to make sure people can sit far enough apart? What will people want reassurance about before they stop?
  • How social distancing will be organised at the toilets. If fewer cubicles and sinks are in use, how will the resulting queues be managed?
  • How will things work at the petrol pump when both sides are being used?

Cleaning

Transport users may want reassurance about cleaning on trains, buses, trams and at motorway services. Will people be happy to be told it’s happening, or will they want to see it happening? Will people believe it’s being done in a way that will definitely kill the virus? What will people want to be cleaned? Handles of doors, ticket machine touch screens, grab poles, petrol pump nozzles? Will people want a higher standard of toilet cleaning even than they do normally?

What do you think?

Many of us are currently either non-users or infrequent users of any form of transport. When the lockdown starts being eased, what will you want to be assured about before you venture out? Let us know in the comments below.

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