There will be more buses on the roads tomorrow as First restore services after lockdown cuts


North Staffordshire’s main bus operator will restore services to 80 per cent of their pre-lockdown levels after securing government funding.

First Potteries had previously been forced to slash services during the Covid-19 crisis due to plummeting bus use and coronavirus-related staff shortages.

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.

Social distancing measures on a First Potteries bus

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.”

A First Potteries bus

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

 





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