Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

Transport User Voice – December 2020 – A look across Great Britain

30 November 2020

Firebreak, levels and a second lockdown

Wales

Managing restrictions has been distinctly different, depending on where we live. While lockdown in England was for four weeks, Wales had a 17 day ‘firebreak’.
During the planning for this, Transport Focus worked with Welsh Government as part of a group providing advice on the guidance for travelling on public transport. We made three fundamental points:

clarity of information is key

cross-border advice must be consistent

provide early advice on what to expect afterwards, to give confidence to using public transport again.

We have been monitoring the clarity of advice given to passengers on various websites and also through social media on an ongoing basis, pressing for improvements where appropriate.

Seeing the difference in people’s experience can be very striking, especially for those living on the border.

Sheila Dee, community rail officer for Chester Shrewsbury Rail Partnership, shared her insight into the new travel challenges facing those living on the border of Wales and England:

Those who live on the border have probably never before realised just how much they live their lives between the two countries, until now. Some towns and villages actually straddle the border so depending where you live you can see rules differ from neighbour to neighbour.

I live in one of those places; my nearest supermarket, school, and petrol station amongst others is five minutes away in England by car. It’s a short walk to the border, less than five minutes, and one of my favourite circular walks is off the agenda currently as it’s partly in England which is in lockdown.

During the initial lockdown in March the message to all was simple. Essential travel only, no matter where you lived. However, as we emerged from the lockdown during the summer the messages from the two countries differed. Wales retained its ‘essential travel only’ message but England had the freedom to travel and people did; they travelled from England to various places in Wales which Welsh residents couldn’t do.

More recently, the Wales-only and county-only lockdowns saw some confusion for people living in England but working in Wales. An exchange recently on social media illustrated the confusion at the published guidance.

They lived in one of the border settlements on the English side. Wales was in lockdown, but their usual commute was walking to their local station which happened to be in Wales and then take the train to Chester where they worked. It was business as usual for them, but should they enter into Wales to catch their train?

There was quite a debate, and many suggested the solution was that they use the nearest English station instead which was some four to five miles away which meant they had to go south to catch a train north and stop at the Welsh station which they usually used!

Many would say use common sense but behind that is also the worry that they would be stopped and maybe accused of breaking the law. Added to that is the fear of how they are to buy train tickets to travel. Not everyone has access to mobile or online ticketing and not all unstaffed stations have ticket vending machines. Rail travel sees no boundaries, a bit like those who live in border communities, and sometimes spelling out common sense just might help ease worries.

Scotland

The first minister announced the results of the latest review of Covid-19 protection levels in Scotland earlier this month. While most local authorities remained at their current level, eleven council areas moved into the highest level 4 restrictions from 20 November. This is expected to last through to 11 December.

Travel restrictions have been put into law to prevent those living in a level 3 or level 4 area from travelling outside their local authority except for an essential purpose – such as work or caring responsibilities. This also means people cannot travel into level 3 or level 4 areas for non-essential travel, except for the same reasons.

This has seen an expected fall of patronage on public transport as the restrictions take effect.

With the focus primarily on the pandemic, recent announcements have not received the prominence they would have seen previously.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on new proposals to offer free bus travel for young people (under 19s) who live in Scotland. The £500m Bus Partnership Fund has also been launched to support local authorities in partnership with bus operators. It hopes to tackle the negative impact of congestion on bus services so that bus journeys are quicker and more reliable, therefore encouraging more people to travel by bus.

London

You might have read in the news that at the same time as London was bracing itself for another lockdown, Transport for London managed to secure a funding deal from the Government at the final hour. This will keep it operating until the end of March 2021.

London TravelWatch is pleased that, for now at least, proposals to remove free travel for under 18s have been cancelled and the 60+ Oyster card remains in place. Negotiations will obviously continue between both sides but it is a relief to avoid the doomsday scenario of the network grinding to a halt.

London TravelWatch has been gathering a range of people’s views on what the future of transport in London might look like post-Covid. So far, there’s been a great response. More than 1100 members of the public filled in its future transport survey and London TravelWatch has conducted interviews with people from across the political, transport and business world.

You can hear more about what we found during a special hour-long webinar at 2pm on 3 December. Register to attend for free here. London TravelWatch also plans to produce a more detailed report in the new year – so keep your eyes out for that!

 

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