A London bus driver wearing a face mask and rubber gloves during the COVID-19 outbreak. March 2020

London to resume front-door boarding

London’s buses are to begin returning to front-door boarding, with customers required to touch in with Oyster, contactless and concessionary cards, Transport for London has confirmed.


The move follows extensive work by a multidisciplinary team from University College London’s Centre for Transport Studies and Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering to assess the risks for drivers in their cabs and close work with bus operators and the Unite union to develop improvements to the screens beside bus drivers.


The UCL analysis finds that the steps that TfL has taken – by adding a film layer to screens and sealing off gaps around the screen as a whole, including around the Oyster reader – substantially reduces the risk to drivers of contracting coronavirus from customers. This is on top of the rigorous cleaning regime, which sees cabs and handrails, along with other regularly touched areas, treated with hospital-grade anti-viral disinfectant.


From tomorrow, passengers will start to see signage on 124 bus routes instructing them to board using the front door and use their Oyster, contactless or concessionary cards. Front-door boarding will be reinstated on further bus routes as soon as possible, and it is anticipated that all London buses will have returned to front-door boarding by mid-June.


Reverting to pre-pandemic arrangements will improve social distancing for customers entering or exiting the bus by reinstating the traditional flows on and off the bus, and while queuing at stops or stations, as well as giving TfL accurate information to ensure it is providing the service needed to enable safe travel for all.


To further ensure the safety of customers and bus drivers, new limits to the number of customers on board at any one time will be introduced. This will help customers to observe the national guidance to maintain a two-metre distance between them and others wherever possible.


Double-deckers will be able to carry 20 customers. Single-deckers, depending on the size of the bus, will carry between six and 10 customers. The driver will have discretion to allow more customers on board if they are travelling in households or groups.


Heidi Alexander, deputy mayor for transport, says: “Working closely with unions, TfL has introduced a range of measures to improve safety including putting in place an enhanced anti-viral cleaning regime across the network, applying a protective film to the Perspex screen of bus driver cabs to seal off holes and preventing passengers sitting next to bus drivers.  All frontline staff have also been offered simple face masks.


“From this weekend passengers will be asked to resume boarding through the front door on some of our buses. All buses where we are reverting to front door boarding have had additional work carried out to seal off the opening at the bottom of the safety screen which was historically used for cash payments. Scientific advice has confirmed that it is safe for front door boarding to resume on these buses thanks to these improvements. These enhancements are urgently being rolled out across the network on a route-by-route basis.”


Throughout the pandemic, TfL says it has been using additional hospital-grade anti-viral fluid across the transport network with particular attention paid to all regular ‘touch points’, such as handrails, doors and steering wheels. TfL and London’s bus operators have ensured that all drivers have masks available to them, and in line with the government and mayor’s advice, TfL is also urging all customers to use a face covering when using public transport to help control the spread of coronavirus.

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