Commuters in London will face an unprecedented level of changes to the bus network from next week as schools reopen and pandemic restrictions are eased.
Changes being made by Transport for London (TfL) to cope with the added challenges of the new term, which will see pupil return en masse for the first time since lockdown started, include the introduction of designated school-only buses.
It’s the first time London’s bus network has been altered on this scale and will see more than 220 high-frequency routes that serve schools introduce ‘School Services’ before and after school. All available seats on these can be used, as per the Government’s guidelines, and they therefore can’t be used for anyone not travelling to school.
TfL will also add more than 230 extra buses as School Services to bolster some of the busiest lower frequency routes that are highly used by schoolchildren, including adding more vehicles to its existing school bus services.
It means that on some routes that serve schools, around half of buses will be designated as a School Service during school travel times. These will be clearly marked while other buses on those routes with some school services and some non-school services will be marked out with red signs to help stop schoolchildren from boarding them, as capacity limits remain in place.
But to help cope with the demand as many businesses also reopen and staff return after summer breaks, TfL is also asking parents, students and school staff to walk, cycle or scoot whenever they can, while those not travelling to school are advised to travel at quiet times where possible or to be prepared for longer waits.
The changes, which will see large parts of the bus network operate differently than before, will also help to accommodate the journeys of the growing number of people returning to their workplaces across London as national pandemic restrictions are gradually eased.
TfL staff and police partners will also be out across the network reminding customers of the rules on face coverings; all customers aged 11 or over are required to wear a face covering when using public transport services unless they are exempt.
TfL will also be trialling 24-hour bus lanes on its own roads in the coming weeks.
Gareth Powell, TfL’s managing director of surface transport, said: “September is always a challenge on the bus network and, given the circumstances, customers may need to wait a bit longer to board buses. but with these new measures and the extra buses we are providing, and with everyone playing their part, we can ensure that everyone can reliably and safely get where they need to be, and London can continue to recover from the pandemic.”