A bus company in the Borders is developing a mobile phone app to try to give people more confidence about returning to public transport.
It will tell passengers whether the bus they want to catch is already too full and when it was last cleaned. It’s expected to become available as lockdown restrictions start to be lifted in Scotland.
The industry has been hit hard over the last two months with services restricted and few people wanting to travel. But as they look to get back up to speed companies like Border Buses have adapted their vehicles to reduce the risks.
Its buses have already been adapted to make them safer, with screens between the passengers and the driver, markings on the floor to show the two metre distance and hand sanitiser available.
Now it’s hoped a mobile phone app will soon allow people waiting for a bus to find out how many people are already on board.
“Customers can see the bus on the app coming towards them, says Operations Manager Lee Young. “It will be like a traffic light system, green for a clear bus, amber if it’s near capacity and red if it’s at the point of capacity.”
The information will tell people not just how many are on board but also when it was last thoroughly cleaned.
Tom Quay, the CEO of Passenger, the company developing the app technology, says: “Public transport is a critical part of people’s lives so the reassurance to travel, particularly where there’s no access to a car, is really important.”
he Scottish government is looking at options for increasing the frequency of public transport but says only a limited service will operate during the first phase of lockdown easing. It’s thought buses will have to stay less than a quarter full to maintain social distancing. Face coverings are also recommended.
“People should, and they’re expected to, wear face coverings as an additional measure when using public transport,” says Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Marheseon. “and as a consideration to staff and to fellow passengers.”
Opposition MSPs, though, say there are still unanswered questions. Colin Smyth, a Labour MSP for South Scotland, says: “I’ve urged the government to consider whether bringing in PPE may be something to keep our drivers safe and if the government has ruled that out they need to tell us exactly how they plan to keep drivers safe.”
Lockdown restrictions are due to start easing in Scotland from Thursday.