Public transport’s good to go – plan ahead and travel safely

From today (Monday 17 May), new guidelines on public transport come into effect as part of the Government’s latest steps on the roadmap out of lockdown.

Previous Government advice to minimise travel has now ended and public transport users are being advised to plan ahead and travel safely.

As we enter this next phase of the roadmap and people across the North East begin to travel more frequently further afield, senior leaders say it is the ideal time to safely return to public transport or maximise use of active travel (walking and cycling).

Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health for Gateshead Council, said: “We all know the importance of fresh air in the fight against Covid, but it also offers many other benefits for our health and wellbeing. Fewer cars on the road during the pandemic has led to a welcome reduction in air pollution, so let’s not undo that now.

“Local travel providers have done a fantastic job of introducing social distancing measures and thorough cleaning regimes, making public transport both safe and sustainable. Incorporating active travel into your routine, even if that’s just a short walk to the bus stop, can also improve your physical and mental wellbeing – which is much needed for many of us, especially after the challenges of the last year or so.

“So as restrictions ease and we can start to venture further afield, please consider leaving the car at home.”

Passengers on public transport across the North East including buses and the Metro, should continue to wear face coverings unless exempt, socially distance and sanitise their hands regularly. As much as possible, users should plan their travel ahead of time and avoid busy peaks. As restrictions ease, some transport services and roads are likely to be busier so the guidance is to plan ahead.

Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “We’ve all worked really hard to get Coronavirus infection rates down, and it is great news that we can start to move around more freely. But we are already seeing road traffic rising above pre-pandemic levels, and air quality is deteriorating. We are lucky to have good bus and Metro services in our region, with frequent timetables, extra cleaning, and more staff. Our message is simple: travel sustainably. Walk, cycle, and use public transport, and use your car less wherever you can.

“Right now, we are all more aware of public health than we have ever been, and by travelling sustainably we can all help to make a difference to peoples’ health – our own health, and the health of everyone around us.”

Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Transport North East, said: “As the Government instruction to minimise travel comes to an end, people can confidently plan to use our public transport network in the coming weeks. Buses and Metros have operated throughout the pandemic to get people to work, and full timetables are in place.

“Public transport is clean, safe and reliable, and operators have worked hard to put in place extra Covid-secure measures to add to peoples’ confidence like enhanced cleaning regimes, more staff, and contactless payment options. I would encourage everyone to give public transport a try next time you travel, especially if you haven’t used it for a while – I’m confident you will like what you find.”

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