National Express scheduled coach services in England are utilising almost full capacity following industry work that identified the uplift as being safe. It follows an industry-led review of social distancing requirements on coaches and consultation with “relevant government departments, colleagues and representative bodies.”
All seats except for the two directly behind the driver have returned to use under the change, which was introduced by National Express on 29 May. It does not apply in Scotland and Wales. Within those two nations, coaches will continue to operate with reduced capacities to allow social distancing to be observed.
Cross-border journeys will observe the uplift when in England, but National Express says that its sales channels have been “set to accommodate reduced capacity” when each coach is operating in Scotland or Wales.
Other COVID-secure measures remain in place, including enhanced cleaning of coaches and coach stations, a requirement for customers to wear face coverings in accordance with government guidelines in both settings, temperature screening before boarding, enhanced air filtration and protective screens for drivers.
Customers that no longer wish to travel because of the shift of policy will be offered a free amendment to their journey, the company says.
The change follows a risk-based case for the use of every forward-facing seat on coaches in England that was published in mid-May by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT). CPT’s document highlights measures that have been taken to mitigate virus transmission on coaches. It also notes that aeroplanes and trains operate with no mandated social distancing and have recorded little evidence of increased transmission risk.
Responding to CPT’s risk-based case, Under-Secretary of State for Transport Baroness Vere noted that one metre plus social distancing guidance “is not… an absolute requirement” on coaches where suitable mitigatory measures are in place. CPT says it is working with authorities in Scotland and Wales to ensure a consistent approach there.