North Staffordshire’s main bus operator will restore services to 80 per cent of their pre-lockdown levels after securing government funding.
Most of First’s routes were reduced to an hourly service, while some were suspended altogether.
But from Monday, most services will run at least every 30 minutes, with the most popular, such as the 3/3A Hanley to Crewe bus, running every 10 minutes at peak times. And most of the suspended services will start to run again.
Nigel Eggleton, managing director of First Midlands, says the increased service level will allow the company to ensure the recently-introduced social distancing measures can be maintained as the lockdown restrictions are eased and patronage rises.
He said: “Our service will be up to 80 per cent of what it normally is. It was previously down to around 42 per cent.
“The negotiations with the government came to a conclusion on Wednesday afternoon, and so they will now provide funding for services to be restored to 70 per cent, rising to 100 per cent in due course. There are various factors which will affect our ability to do that, including staff availability.
“Our new timetable is designed to meet the needs of social distancing and ensure that passengers do not face a long wait to get a bus. Our patronage has been at about 11 per cent so far, but that will increase with the schools going back and some non-essential retail reopening.
“But we would still advise passengers to still only use our buses for essential journeys. There have been a couple of incidents recently which have bothered us.
“For example, we had some senior citizens who took a trip down to Stafford on one of our buses, because they fancied going to a different supermarket. I can understand why they might want to do that, but it really isn’t an essential journey.”
First Potteries has reduced the maximum capacity of its buses to under 25 per cent, with one in four seats being taped off, to allow passengers to maintain social distancing while on board.
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Mr Eggleton says that while the increased frequency of services will support these rules, passengers will still need to demonstrate ‘personal
He added: “I think 90 per cent of our passengers are abiding by the social distancing measures, but I have seen the photographs of incidents where that hasn’t happened. I think people do need to exercise some personal responsibility.”
Frequencies of First Potteries buses from Monday:
|Route||Frequency (Monday-Friday during the day)|
|3/3A: Hanley – Burslem – Tunstall – Kidsgrove – Crewe||Every 10 minutes (peak times)*
Every 15 minutes (during the day)*
|4/4A: Hanley – Newcastle – Chesterton / Audley/Talke||Every 15 minutes|
|5: Hanley – Abbey Hulton||Every 15 minutes|
|6/6A: Hanley – Fenton – Longton – Meir – Coalville/Blythe Bridge||Every 10 minutes (peak times)*
Every 15 minutes (during the day)*
|7/7A: Hanley – Chell – Kidsgrove/Biddulph||Every 15 minutes*|
|8: Hanley – Ball Green||Every 30 minutes|
|11: Hanley – Bentilee – Longton – Fenton – Stoke – Newcastle||Every 30 minutes
Every 15 minutes between Hanley & Dawlish Drive
|11B: Hanley – Bentilee circular||Every 30 minutes|
|18: Hanley – Sneyd Green – Leek||Every 30 minutes (peak times)
Every hour (during the day)
|21: Hanley – Stoke – Hanford – Trentham||Every 30 minutes|
|22: Longton – Trentham – Hanford – Newcastle||Every 30 minutes|
|23: Hanley – Stoke – Fenton – Newstead||Every 30 minutes|
|25: Hanley – Stoke – Newcastle – Keele||Every 15 minutes (Hanley – Newcastle), buses extend to Keele every half hour|
|32 (Kingfisher): Hanley – Cheadle – Tean – Uttoxeter||Every hour|
|37: Lymedale Business Park||2 trips a day|
|72/72A: Newcastle – Westbury Park||Every 30 minutes. Route 72A operates off peak only|
|98: Newcastle – Porthill – Burslem – Ball Green||Every 30 minutes|
|101: Hanley – Newcastle – Stone – Stafford||Every 30 minutes|