Bus services are 'being stepped up in line with demand' as passenger numbers rise after pandemic drop

Transport chiefs have moved to reassure the public over capacity on key bus routes at peak times.

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Passenger numbers across the North East have recovered to about half of their pre-COVID levels in recent weeks, as pupils returned to schools and workers to offices in increasing numbers.

And although seats on individual vehicles remain limited due to social distancing measures, bosses have insisted the system has enough capacity to deal with travellers at peak times – even if some may have to wait slightly longer.

“We’re now at pretty much 100 per cent of daytime services, less so at weekends and evenings, and they’re being stepped up in line with demand,” said Martijn Gilbert, chairman of North East Bus Operators, an industry body.

“There’s a small likelihood that you might encounter journeys where the bus is full, but of those they’re either ones where there’s a duplicate bus following immediately behind or they’re on a high frequency corridor where there’s buses every five, 10 or 15 minutes.

“They’re all logged and we track them daily to try and react to that.”

Gilbert, who is also managing director at bus operator Go North East, was speaking on Thursday, October 1 at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

The return of pupils to classrooms last month (September) saw an extra 130 buses mobilised across the region to ensure social distancing could be maintained at peak times.

This was described as a ‘monumental task’ by Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Transport North East, who said extra cash from the Department for Education and and the work of bus operators had ensured children were not ‘left behind at bus stops’.

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