THE LION buses are to return to service next week as part of a timetable shake-up – and passengers using it are being urged to wear facemasks.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Reading Buses reduced services as people stayed at home but as they return to work, demand is increasing – although it is still 85% down on usual levels.
From Monday, June 1, the company will start to resume some services and increase frequency on other routes to enable customers to be able to travel safely.
Between Monday and Saturdays, the new frequency will be between a Saturday and Sunday timetable, and most routes will operate a normal Sunday timetable.
The biggest change the resumption of the Lion 4 route, which links Wokingham with Bracknell and Reading. The X4 had carried on throughout the pandemic.
Robert Williams, Reading Buses’ chief executive officer, said that this was the first step towards services returning to usual timetables.
“Government advice remains to avoid public transport and therefore customer numbers continue to be very low,” he said. “By starting to increase frequencies we can cater for more customers and keep the number of people on each bus to around 25% of the normal seated allowance.
“There will, of course, be flexibility to enable people from the same household to travel together so we will have temporary, advisory, seating capacities for each vehicle.”
And customers will receive advice on the best seats to use to ensure social distancing is maintained.
“No-one will be allowed to stand when on board except to leave the bus, and even then only once the bus has stopped,” Mr Williams added.
“We have also taken great care to remind customers about the part they play with helpful new notices being displayed on stops and around our vehicles.
“We are asking customers to observe social distancing of two metres whilst waiting to board the bus, to do so one at a time and allow space for people to get off first.
“Where possible, we are encouraging customers to wear a face covering when travelling which can take the form of a cloth face mask or a simple scarf.”
Customers are also being asked to use the Reading Buses phone app to buy tickets and check on waiting times – for those that need to pay in cash, the exact fare policy remains in place.
Mr Williams added: “The company is currently still seeing a reduction in customers of over 85% in spite of slight changes to the lockdown rules in recent weeks. But we are expecting to see an increase in people needing buses from Monday.
“This increase in service is only viable due to the Government funding for bus operators to allow them to run buses that are much emptier than normal.”
For more details, or to check timetables, visit: www.reading-buses.co.uk