First Bus is to introduce measures to ensure that social distancing guidelines can be adhered to across its operation via work that includes a passenger counting facility to allow reduced capacity limits to be observed.

Passengers will be directed to use only seats that are an appropriate distance from each other. That will reduce the capacity of each bus by 75%. Those positions will be clearly marked on all of First’s vehicles by Monday 25 May.

Passenger counting functionality is being delivered by Ticketer. Within days, the facility will be added to ticket machines used by First. Drivers will count passengers on and off, and the machine will advise them what, if any, capacity remains available.

When no more useable seats are free, the destination display will be changed by the driver to show ‘Sorry, bus full’. Ticketer will have delivered the passenger counting function in less than two weeks since conversations began.

First says it is monitoring passenger data and will provide double-deckers on the busiest journeys where possible. In the short term it has duplicate buses that can be added where appropriate. It expects to add more services to existing timetables soon.

Says FirstGroup Chief Information Office Dave Lynch: “Since the government’s announcements last week, we have been working round the clock to fund way to innovate so that on our buses we can ensure safe, socially distanced space for our passengers.

“We are immensely proud that we have been able to develop this new system so quickly with Ticketer, empowering our drivers to be able to manage the capacity of each bus. We fully support the government’s guidelines and urge passengers to only travel if their journey is essential.”

Adds Ticketer CEO John Clarfelt: “We are once again delighted to be working closely with First Bus in developing this ground-breaking technology. It will be vital for drivers as the number of passengers using buses over the coming weeks increases.”