As some constituents in Old Bexley and Sidcup who cannot work from home return to work and plan their journeys in, I have been in contact with Southeastern to seek assurance on the steps they are taking to protect passengers and staff and have outlined the below guidance to travel safely on public transport, as well as other transport methods.
To help keep yourself and your fellow passengers safe, you should not travel if you:
- are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms
- are self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms or sharing a household with somebody with symptoms
- are clinically extremely vulnerable
Before you travel, consider if your journey is necessary and if you can, stay local. Try to reduce your travel. This will help keep the transport network running and allow people who need to make essential journeys to travel. You can reduce your travel by:
- working from home where possible
- shopping less frequently and shopping locally
Walking and cycling
Walking and cycling will reduce pressure on the public transport system and the road network. Consider walking and cycling if you can. Try to maintain social distancing when you walk or cycle, for example when approaching or passing other pedestrians or waiting at crossings and traffic lights. Where using bikes (private, docked or dockless) wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands before and after cycling.
I have been in contact with Southeastern to seek assurance on the steps they are taking to ensure the safety of passengers and staff, as well as to seek details of their current and planned timetable and guidance to passengers.
Southeastern is currently operating a reduced timetable which can be found here. From Monday 18th May, the reduced timetable will have some additional peak services and some trains will be retimed which can be found here.
This timetable will run until further notice and is available in online journey planners now. A map of the planned service and the timetables are available below.
As government has said, social distancing means there will be space for as few as 1 in 10 of the usual number of passengers on the railway. The safety of the public and their employees remains Southeastern’s top priority and people should help protect everyone on the railway by only using trains if they have no alternative. Those who can work from home should continue to do so.
People who need to travel are being asked to buy their ticket online before they travel or use contactless, leave plenty of time for their journey, travel off-peak if they can and follow public health advice while travelling.
Southeastern provided assurance that they are taking steps to ensure their trains and stations are clean to help tackle the spread of coronavirus. This includes increasing their focus on cleaning high-touch areas in trains and at stations using anti-viral cleaning products, ensuring toilets are well stocked with soap and water and fully disinfecting all their trains every 7 days with a product that has a 10-day life.
Southeastern provided the below advice for passengers:
- Only take public transport if you have no other option and consider cycling or walking for your journey if possible
- Plan ahead – avoid peak travel, check before you travel, buy tickets online on mobile or on smartcard
- Consider others – please wear a face covering, respect Southeastern staff, be considerate to those less able
- Stay safe – maintain social distancing where possible, use hand sanitiser and wash hands frequently, pay contactless where possible
All Public Transport
The guidance for use of public transport reflects Southeastern’s guidance and passengers should consider all other forms of transport before using public transport.
Before and during your journey, check with your transport operator for the latest travel advice on your route:
Travel may take longer than normal on some routes due to reduced capacity and social distancing measures. Allow sufficient time if your journey involves changes between different forms of transport. Plan ahead by identifying alternative routes and options in case of unexpected disruption.
Where possible, book your travel online through your transport provider’s ticketing app or website. Consider contactless payment to buy tickets.
Taking a less busy route and reducing the number of changes (for example between bus and train) will help you keep your distance from others. Public Health England recommends keeping a 2 metre distance from other people, where possible. Where this is not possible you should keep the time you spend nears others as short as possible and avoid physical contact.
Try to start or end your journey using a station or mode of transport you know to be quieter or more direct. For instance, walk the first or last mile of your journey, or alight at an earlier station, where this is possible.
There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas. If you can, wear a face covering if you need to use public transport.
Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by the law. If you choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and after taking them off. Consider making a list of items to take with you and minimise the luggage you take.
Treat transport staff with respect and follow instructions from your transport operator. This may include:
- notices about which seats to use or how to queue
- additional screens, barriers or floor markings
- requests to board through different doors or to move to less busy areas
Help keep yourself, other passengers and transport staff safe:
- wait for passengers to get off first before you board
- ensure you maintain social distancing, where possible, including at busy entrances, exits, under canopies, bus stops, platforms or outside of stations
- be prepared to queue or take a different entrance or exit at stations
- wait for the next service if you cannot safely keep your distance on board a train, bus or coach
- respect other people’s space while travelling
- be aware of the surfaces you touch
- be careful not to touch your face and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing
- avoid consuming food and drink on public transport, where possible
- be aware of pregnant, older and disabled people who may require a seat or extra space
- be aware that some individuals may have hidden disabilities
Taxis and private hire vehicles
At taxi ranks try to keep a 2 metre distance from people outside your household, where possible.
Taxi and private hire vehicle (for example minicab) operators are likely to have put in place new measures to help with social distancing. When traveling in taxis or private hire vehicles follow the advice of the driver. For example, you may be asked to sit in the back left hand seat if travelling alone. You may want to check with your taxi operator before travelling if they have put any additional measures in place.
If you need to be near other people you should avoid physical contact, try to face away from other people, and keep the time you spend near other people as short as possible. Be aware of the surfaces you or others touch.
Private cars and other vehicles
Plan your route, including any breaks, before setting out. Try to stay as local as possible to your home. Routes may be different as local areas make changes to enable social distancing on pavements and cycle routes.
If you normally share a vehicle with people from other households for essential journeys, we recommend you find a different way to travel. For example, consider walking, cycling or using your own vehicle if you can.
If driving, you should anticipate more pedestrians and cyclists than usual, especially at peak times of day. Allow other road users to maintain social distance, where possible. For example, give cyclists space at traffic lights.
Limit the time you spend at garages, petrol stations and motorway services. Try to keep your distance from other people and if possible pay by contactless. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands when arriving and leaving.
Be aware of the surfaces you or others touch. If people from different households use a vehicle (for example through a car share scheme), you should clean it between journeys using gloves and standard cleaning products. Make sure you clean door handles, steering wheel and other areas that people may touch.