Transport User Voice – July 2021 – Around Great Britain
29 June 2021
Scotland, London and Wales
East Coast Main Line (ECML) – May 2022 timetable consultation
The East Coast upgrade has resulted in LNER, TransPennine Express and CrossCountry consulting on a new timetable structure which will start next year. This will affect services in and out of Scotland as well as around England.
The structure of the timetable is largely fixed though it may be possible to make some local adjustments based on feedback. The aim is for all train operators to have their plans in place by early autumn to deliver the new timetable from May 2022.
Every timetable change date causes some passengers inconvenience because of alterations to the specific services they use. The number of people affected varies depending on the scale of the change. Transport Focus will be carefully considering how passengers will be affected and will make sure train operators factor them into the changes.
Transport Focus carried out an online survey in spring 2021 into the views and experiences of 1000 current, lapsed and non-users of bus in Scotland. This was part of a wider study looking at bus passengers during Covid-19 across Great Britain. We asked about using buses during the pandemic, expected use once things go back to normal, satisfaction with services and priorities for using the bus more.
For bus use to pick up to pre-pandemic levels, operators and transport authorities must listen to, and act on, what passengers tell them they want from their services. And they need to make sure they are doing all they can to help make sure returning passengers feel safe.
Transport Focus recommends bus operators communicate safety measures to passengers, let passengers know how busy buses are expected to be, offer special fares and discounts and deliver frequent, reliable and punctual services.
Last week London TravelWatch won the battle to keep cashless options in London. London TravelWatch wrote to Andy Byford in May asking for cash to be reinstated at the machines where it was removed which Transport for London (TfL) has now said it will do.
On top of that TfL has dropped its plans to remove the option to pay by cash from the entire network. Back in the autumn, this looked like a real threat. But, following research conducted by London TravelWatch and by putting together a coalition including Transport for All, Age UK London, Alzheimers Society, Rail to Refuge and Which? to oppose it, TfL decided to delay the decision and conduct its own research into the possible impacts.
This research painted a very clear picture of the different people who would be negatively affected by the removal of the option to pay by cash. It included a really interesting statistic that seven per cent of Londoners could not use the public transport network if they couldn’t pay in cash. When it comes to children that figure was even higher.
The only aspect to keep an eye on is the paragraph in the letter that refers to the replacement of ticket machines on the DLR. London TravelWatch has known that the replacement of these old ticket machines was a driver behind TfL’s plans to go cashless. It must ensure that people still have the ability to pay by cash on the DLR which runs through some of the most deprived parts of London.
Covid-19 restrictions remain in place in Wales, although there has been some easing with 30 people now able to meet outdoors. More people are starting to make leisure trips and, as the summer holiday season approaches and more restrictions ease, there is likely to be more of an appetite to travel by public transport. The opening up of outdoor events and staycations due to overseas travel restrictions will also stimulate demand. This will result in a challenge for operators to maintain social distancing on services.
From last week, all forward-facing seats can be used on buses. This will increase the available capacity. We know from our research that some passengers are still anxious about travelling due to coronavirus. It is important that operators continue to provide information about how busy services are so passengers can make informed choices about the best time to travel. Operators need to manage passenger expectations and be honest about what they can expect on board services.
Our latest research looks across Great Britain at using buses during Covid-19 and expectations for the future. Results show that bus use since the first lockdown in March 2020 varies between nations with Wales recording the lowest levels of passengers. There are many potential explanations. For example, Wales has the highest number of respondents who have access to a car all the time. This could help explain why the region has a higher rate of lapsed and non-users compared to the other nations.
In Wales, the vast majority (84 per cent) of current users felt safe taking the bus during the pandemic. This was strongly linked to how busy the bus was. Most experienced quiet buses but this was less likely in urban areas where 60 per cent said they were not able to catch the first bus all the time. Despite the pandemic, some users (14 per cent) have increased bus travel, mainly for commuting. However, 63 per cent have used buses less often since March 2020.
Understanding the experience of those who have reduced their use during Covid is crucial to finding solutions to attracting people back. Having clean, well-maintained buses with improved punctuality and reliability would encourage many to use the bus more often. It’s also important to provide special offers and incentives, particularly for younger passengers in urban areas.
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