The last few months have seen us all adapting to life under ‘lockdown’ and then the gradual easing of restrictions. Businesses have been hit, millions of workers placed on the Government’s Furlough scheme, high streets emptied of shoppers, hotels and holiday areas closed and the transport sector faced with the biggest loss of passengers it have ever faced.
National Express and Megabus pulled the plug on its operations. Local bus services were reduced to the bare minimum and we were told that they were for ‘essential travel’ only. The same message applied to train services.
Despite train and local bus services returning to pre-‘lockdown’ levels, Social Distancing means that carrying capacities have been drastically reduced. AS typical double deck bus can currently only seat 20. A massive reduction from the normal 70+ carrying capacity.
In England the last few weeks has seen a quickening of the easing of ‘lockdown’. From July 4th the hospitality sector can re-open providing it is COVID-secure. The ‘Staycation’ is back on the cards (in England at least). The two metre rule is being relaxed (in England at least).
There is confusion. The rules in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland differ.
Already we hear that there is the view (wrongly) amongst some groups that ‘lockdown’ is over. It is not. It has been eased - there is a difference.
We all need to play our part to enable UK plc to get back to some semblance of normal. It could be many months - even years - before we return to the pre-COVID normal according to the experts. What we do know is that we need to get used to a ‘new normal’. For public transport use that currently means essential travel only and the wearing of face coverings. We have been appalled, however, to see people discard face coverings on the ground when they get off the bus, or leave the station. Everybody needs to play their part. Remember the actions you take protects me. The actions I take protects you.
If we all play our part we will all be taking the steps towards a more accessible and inclusive public transport provision.
We should all be aware that we are perhaps entering the most dangerous part of the COVID pandemic. If we let our guard down we risk COVID-19 ‘spikes’ and the real risk of a major second wave of the virus which could lead to another total lockdown. We personally doubt that transport operators would be able to sustain another ‘lockdown’.
We do hope that the actions we are all taking will provide real barriers to the transmission of the COVID-19 virus and that bus, coach and train services will be able to apply to take the gradual steps that are needed to get back to normality.
For coach operators running tours and excursions we believe the return towards normality will be more of a struggle. Social Distancing means that coach tours may initially be unviable but there is also a big ‘confidence’ issue to overcome.
We wish all bus, coach and train operators and their staff well as they ramp their services and tour programme up over the coming months.
The effects of the ‘lockdown’ have also impacted on Steven Knight Media.
|Having announced last year that we were ‘winding down’ our book publishing we had three more Fleet Handbooks planned covering the Stagecoach East, East Midlands and Oxfordshire fleets. In normal circumstances these would have been published as soon as we had details of Stagecoach’s 2020/21 new vehicle plans. The COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ meant that generally investment in new vehicles had been slashed. Over 50% of the three fleets were delicenced or mothballed. The ‘new normal’ for these companies is only now emerging and there are many temporary arrangements in place.
As a result all we can say is that we will look at publishing these books in late-Summer/early Autumn 2020. The books are fully designed and ready to print but we will continue to update then right through until the day, and the hour, that the files are sent to the printers. We will even substitute photographs is we receive something more newsworthy in the intervening period.
During the main ‘lockdown’ period there we received few messages on fleet information and many of our industry contacts were either furloughed or were fully focused on the day job. That is now improving and we are able to provide regular Fleet Ramblings updates. We would like to thank all the correspondents who have continued to provide us with information and also the photographers who have supplied us with photographs which they have also allowed us to use in Fleet Ramblings.
To fill the gap, we have published a number of archive images, which we hope you have enjoyed viewing. As Fleet Ramblings is now ramping up with regular updates, we have now ceased the archive images postings.
We have continued to update the Fleet Allocation documents on a regular basis, where we have been able to confirm details. There are a few companies where information is still awaited but we hope over the coming month to have the information up-to-date for all Stagecoach companies.
Over the last twelve months we have received numerous requests to return to a single document for the Stagecoach company allocations. From July that is what we will do. We will ensure that the file size is the smallest possible to enable fact downloading.
Finally, thank you all for your support.
Steven Knight is a Transport Specialist who has over 40 years experience in the bus and rail industries as well as in specialist transport journalism. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.