Fares please! London starts collecting fares again on all buses as capacity limits eased

All London buses are now taking payments after enhanced safety measures were installed across the fleet to protect drivers and customers from coronavirus.

Passengers are now also required to use the front, rather than middle doors, for boarding.

The move comes exactly 12 weeks after the requirement to pay for travel was dropped on 20 April 2020 due to COVID-19, as all passengers were required to board through the middle door (where fitted).

After five weeks of free travel, on 23 May, the requirement to pay was re-introduced to some routes, as Oyster readers were fitted at the middle doors to buses that did not have them.

Main Points

  • Reintroduction of revenue collection on London buses completed on Saturday 11 July following safety improvements to drivers’ cabs
  • Customers now required to touch in with their Oyster, contactless and concessionary cards on all buses and to enter through the front door of most buses in a return to pre-pandemic arrangements
  • A wide range of safety and hygiene measures are in place across public transport to protect customers from coronavirus
  • Customers reminded that they must wear face coverings while travelling, and police and TfL enforcement staff are patrolling the network to keep people safe
  • Temporary bus capacity limits increased as Government social distancing rules gradually eased

Temporary bus capacity limits have now been increased in line with the Government’s latest social distancing guidance. Double-decker buses can now carry 30 passengers, while single-deckers, depending on size, can carry either 11 or 14 passengers.

Before the pandemic double decker buses typically carried around 87 people. Single deck capacities varied between 40 and 70, depending on bus size, with the most common single decker buses carrying up to 60 people.

Signs on buses clearly mark these new passenger limits, and drivers have the discretion to allow more customers on board if they are travelling in household groups. A one customer off, one customer on policy operates on buses at full capacity.

Customers are now required to touch in with Oyster, contactless and concessionary cards on all buses, entering through the front doors on most buses in a near complete return to traditional front-door boarding arrangements.

A small number of buses – around 200 New Routemasters – continue to allow middle-door boarding only, and an additional 200 New Routemasters still permit boarding at the front, middle and rear. Work is underway to switch these to front-door boarding only as part of TfL’s existing plans to convert all New Routemasters to front door only boarding.

The 400 New Routemasters yet to return to front-door boarding comprise around 40 per cent of the total of New Routemasters on London’s roads

Hygiene study by UCL

The reintroduction of revenue collection and front-door boarding began on Saturday 23 May. This came after analysis from University College London’s (UCL) Centre for Transport Studies and Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering found the protective measures TfL had introduced, including sealing off gaps in the driver’s assault screen, significantly reduce the risk to drivers of contracting coronavirus from customers.

The installation of additional safety measures across the bus fleet has allowed a full return to revenue collection and near complete return to front-door boarding.

A huge range of cleaning and hygiene measures have also been introduced across the transport network to make it cleaner than ever before. This includes all regular ‘touch point’ areas such as poles and doors, being wiped down with a strong disinfectant every day, and the use of additional hospital-grade cleaning substances.

Other safety measures include the wearing of face coverings. Customers must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth for their entire journey, unless they are exempt. Customers should not be taking the masks off mid-journey and the police and TfL’s enforcement officers are patrolling the transport network to ensure that everyone is following the rules, which are needed to help control the spread of the virus. Already more than 10,000 people have been stopped from travelling without a face covering.

New signage on each bus reminds customers which doors to board through and to touch in with their Oyster, contactless and concessionary cards, as they had done before the pandemic.

Front-door boarding reinstates the traditional flows on and off the bus, making social distancing easier for customers as they enter or exit the bus and queue at stops or stations. The requirement for customers to touch in also gives TfL accurate information to ensure it is providing the service needed to enable safe travel for all.

Aim to revert to 100% of all services run

TfL is working hard to return services to as close to 100 per cent as soon as possible despite the number of staff off sick, shielding or self-isolating. TfL is currently running around 95 per cent of bus services, with the vast majority of routes back at pre-covid service levels.

Customers are encouraged to walk or cycle where they can. TfL is enabling this vital growth of walking and cycling by delivering the world-leading London Streetspace programme. This will invest £24m across 30 boroughs to rapidly transform London’s streets, to accommodate a possible ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking.

Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “The coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on London’s transport network and we have been working incredibly hard to ensure the safety of all our staff and passengers. The extensive safety measures that we have taken, combined with the Government’s change to social distancing rules, means that we can reintroduce front door boarding and accept more passengers on our buses, but this does not mean a complete return to normal capacity on services. I urge Londoners to continue to walk and cycle when they can, to avoid travelling on public transport at peak times, and remind them that they must wear a face covering for their entire journey.”

Claire Mann, TfL’s Director of Bus Operations, said: “The safety of our staff has always been paramount. That’s why we commissioned expert research to ensure driver cabs are as safe as they can be before reinstating front-door boarding and accepting customer payments.

“It is thanks to drivers, and all other bus workers, that bus services have continued to run during the pandemic, and at levels close to what they would be normally. This enabled many thousands of NHS and other key workers in London to get to work and carry out their vital jobs. The bus network is now playing a vital role in enabling the journeys of people returning to work and to London’s restaurants, pubs and other venues, helping London’s recovery from the pandemic.”

TfL has been using additional hospital-grade anti-viral fluid across the transport network with particular attention paid to all regular ‘touch points’, such as handrails, doors and steering wheels. Customers are reminded that they are required to wear a face covering that covers both the mouth and nose and for the duration of their journey, unless an exemption applies. Bus drivers are not required to wear one when in the driver cab.

Customers are advised to continue to follow Government guidance which includes walking or cycling if possible, travelling at quieter times and washing hands before and after journeys.

Customers on buses are advised to sit individually in each pair of seats, with the exception of those travelling in household groups.

Where possible, customers should sit next to and open bus windows for better ventilation, as well as space themselves out across the bus as much as possible, making use of the upper deck on double-decker buses.

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