Public transport investments made across UK to support return to school
Posted: 19 August 2020 | Sam Mehmet (Intelligent Transport)
Investments in public transport have been made across the UK to support local authorities and operators as they manage the increase in patronage as children return to school and college.
In early August 2020, the British Education Secretary announced that thousands of students will be supported with new dedicated school and college transport to get them to school or college in the autumn term. It was noted that local transport authorities will receive more than £40 million funding.
The funding aims to help them create extra capacity and allow hundreds of thousands more students to use alternatives to public transport, while social distancing measures remain in place.
Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “Ahead of delivering on the national priority of all children and young people returning to full-time education in September, I am asking every staff member and student to plan now how they will get to school or college. If it is possible to walk or cycle, please do.
“While our public transport system has almost returned to full service, I know thousands of people will choose to get active and find alternative modes of transport, because with distancing measures still in place it is important that we all play our part to ensure everyone is able to get to school safely, and on time.
“For those that have no other option than public transport, this investment for local authorities will mean more students will be able to travel on dedicated home to school and college transport, creating even more capacity where it is needed most.”
Since the announcement, Transport for London (TfL) has proposed the introduction of new measures that aim to help children travel safely and sustainably.
The plans build on the extensive cleaning regime deployed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which includes hospital-grade long-lasting disinfectant, and an additional 200 buses on key routes near 415 schools.
More than £3 million has been invested to date in 415 School Street schemes, across 26 boroughs, designed to make active journeys to school safer and easier by limiting car access to school gates at drop off and pick-up times.
Some 22 School Street schemes have been delivered through the Streetspace programme so far, with more due for completion in the coming weeks and more than 3,000 schools have been advised on encouraging active travel and staggered start and end times, with bespoke plans for those schools served by the busiest bus routes for school travel.
A new dedicated webpage for education providers also gives the latest advice and resources for schools to encourage safe and sustainable travel among their pupils.
Claire Mann, TfL’s Director of Bus Operations, said: “Safety is always our priority, which is why we have our extensive cleaning regime that’s making our buses and Tubes cleaner than ever.
“As demand is set to grow further with the new academic term, it’s vital that we build on our existing measures, such as our Streetspace initiatives, providing pupils and parents with the means to travel safely and an alternative to car use, which would lead to high levels of congestion and pollution.
“We’re now asking you to walk, cycle or scoot to school where you can as part of this joint effort, and continue to follow these rules as the situation evolves. Everyone else should travel during the quieter times of the day where possible to ensure everyone can travel safely.”
The Scottish Government has also announced £7 million towards upgrading transport to mitigate against COVID-19. The newly created Public, School and Community Transport COVID-19 Mitigation Fund will support interventions by transport operators that will increase capacity and public confidence for those using school transport.
The funding will be open to support measures on buses, taxis and private hire vehicles, trams, subway and local ferries and planes that are used for public, school and community transport. It aims to help install measures needed to provide capacity and increased public confidence. These measures could include driver screens, hand sanitiser dispenser and fitting, high-performance air conditioning units or disinfectant fogging equipment.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, said: “Recent surveys indicate there is still a high degree of anxiety around using public transport due to the risks posed by COVID-19. While there is no risk-free solution at this time, I want to do all that we can to help mitigate the risks that do exist on public transport.
“This funding offers public, school and community transport providers the opportunity to install additional measures should they need to.”
The Welsh Government announced an additional £10 million to help the bus industry safely transport more passengers to school, college and work.
The additional funding is to help operators manage the increased pressure on scheduled bus services. It recognises that social distancing measures are resulting in reduced capacity and that this in turn is significantly affecting ticket revenue. The additional funding will enable operators to increase the number of buses available while also helping to cover costs associated with additional staffing, fuel and maintenance of the bus fleet
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters, said: “Coronavirus and the introduction of necessary social distancing laws have placed significant pressure on our bus operators, affecting the ticket revenue on which they rely. As children and young people prepare to return to school and college from September and as a result, more parents also return to the workplace, we need to do all we can to ensure that people across Wales can safely access reliable bus services.
“This additional £10 million will enable local authorities and operators to determine and deliver the additional services needed to support learners to safely return to school and college. It will also enable bus users who cannot work from home to return to the workplace in a safe manner.”
The Welsh Government has also updated its operational guidance for schools, which includes guidance on transport, catering arrangements and revised shielding and ‘Test, Trace Protect’ guidance. A workforce risk assessment toolkit has also been included.