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Dragon Interview: Andrew Halliday, What Next for Guildford Buses?

Published on: 23 May, 2020
Updated on: 25 May, 2020

Spare a thought for bus operators during lockdown when we have all been warned not to use public transport.

But for some, including key workers and those with hospital appointments, bus travel remains the only option so the buses need to keep running, even if they are only carrying one or two passengers.

Andrew Halliday, director of the Guildford-based Safeguard Buses explained to Martin Giles the challenges his company has faced and looks forward to what measures will be in place to give us confidence, in future, that we can use buses safely.

The interview was conducted on May 22 before the Transport Minister’s announcement of extra funding for public transport (see below). Apologies for the poor sound quality.

Transport Secretary announces new measures to “keep passengers safe”

A further £283m has been made available to increase the number of bus and light rail services as quickly as possible so that people who need to travel, including critical workers in the NHS, can do so safely.

The funding, amounting to £254m for buses and £29m for trams and light rail, will help protect and increase services, allowing people travelling to hospitals, supermarkets or their place of work to get to their destination safely and quickly, while helping ensure there is enough space for them to observe social distancing guidelines. The funding will be kept under review to ensure that full services can be up and running as quickly as possible.

In addition to the funding, 3,400 people including British Transport Police officers, Network Rail and train operator staff have been deployed at stations to advise passengers and make sure people can follow the guidance put in place. From June 1st at the earliest, twice that many will start to be deployed with the assistance of groups like the charity Volunteering Matters.

To make it easier for people to choose alternatives to public transport, a series of measures are being rolled out to encourage more people to cycle instead, including:

  • Allocating local authorities a share of £225million, announced earlier this month, to create pop up and permanent cycle lanes and reallocate road space.
  • Amending laws to reduce red tape and halve the time it takes for councils to get these schemes up and running.
  • Committing £25million from the emergency active travel fund to help people get their bikes repaired so that they can get back to cycling.
  • Investing £2.5million to provide 1,180 cycle parking spaces at thirty railway stations across England to help encourage people to incorporate cycling as part of a longer journey.

The government is also working with local authorities and private car park owners to make it easier for people commuting by car to get closer to their place of work and finish their journey on foot or by bike without the need to take public transport. Plans will focus on developing new schemes at car parks near, but not in, city centres from where drivers could collect a bike – or use their own – and follow new cycling or walking routes which would be colour coded by distance.

Grant Shapps – image Wikipedia

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said: 
“From NHS staff to transport and shop workers, teachers, volunteers and all those staying at home, people across the country are all sharing the same public-spirited approach to tackling the spread of this virus and keeping others safe.

“To make sure people can travel safely when they need to, we are increasing capacity on buses and light rail, as well as helping local authorities fast-track plans to support cyclists and pedestrians, further reducing pressure on our transport network.

“These measures will help keep passengers safe now, but we must also prepare for what comes next. Strengthening vital road and railway connections, as well as encouraging cycling and walking, will be essential to our ambition to level up the country, secure a green legacy, and kickstart regional economies, as we build out of Covid-19 and look to the future.”

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