Senior Traffic Commissioner (STC) Richard Turfitt has further revised guidance on temporary registered bus service variations and the deadline by which pre-coronavirus COVID-19 timetables will be reintroduced.
In England, Scotland and Wales, that date is now 4 January 2021. That allows further latitude in how service provision is increased in the wake of the pandemic. The date has been extended from 30 September “to reflect the challenges faced by operators while they assess what is practicable,” the updated guidance.
It is not likely that the deadline will be extended further unless there is an exceptional change to how the pandemic develops, Mr Turfitt says.
“It is expected that the operational challenges to ensure the safety of passengers and staff will be clearer by October. The January 2021 date will provide operators with the opportunity to apply to make permanent variations in advance. Operators should allow sufficient time to plan for any [permanent] changes, as usual notice periods both to local authorities (LAs) and the TCs will apply,” he continues.
A further change in England is that the notice period for LAs to consider service variations will be extended to 72 hours (three working days) from 3 August. That increase took place in Scotland on 29 June. There is no statutory notice period in Wales.
It remains the case that temporary variation applications in England, Scotland and Wales will be considered accepted after a 72-hour period if no communication from relevant LAs (in England and Scotland) is received.
Bus service variations that were previously to revert to normal timetables on 31 August or 30 September under earlier guidance will now automatically be regarded as expiring on 4 January 2021.
In addition, the updated document explains how to amend a normal service registration to one that defines it as a school or works service.
In a further step intended to assist with home-to-school transport, the guidance outlines how operators of normal stopping services may run a duplicate vehicle that is reserved for school children. It is on the condition that the duplicate aligns with the registered timetable as closely as possible and that vehicles are clearly marked to assist users.
Operators do not have to advise TCs when a duplicate vehicle is provided, but they should keep a record of the operation in case details are required later.
The guidance also outlines that dispensations for extended maintenance intervals will end on 1 September.