Anxious Scots ‘may shun return to public transport’

Glasgow Central Stationduring the ongoing coronavirus pandemicGlasgow Central Stationduring the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
Glasgow Central Stationduring the ongoing coronavirus pandemic | © SNS Group
Scots are becoming more nervous about returning to public transport, with seven out of ten uncomfortable about using buses and trains.

They are also increasingly concerned about social distancing, wearing masks, and hand sanitiser being made available, according to the latest weekly poll by passenger watchdog Transport Focus.

The proportion of Scots comfortable with using buses and trains has dipped from 32 per cent to 30 per cent since last week.

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That compares to an average of just 20 per cent across Britain – down from 24 per cent.

The findings raise the prospect of a drastic fall in the use of public transport as coronavirus lockdown is eased.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday she will reveal next week a “range of options we’re now looking at” for relaxing the restrictions, although it is unclear whether this would happen at the same pace as in England.

Across Britain, young adults are the most ready to use 
public transport when restrictions are eased – but only 25 per cent of them. By contrast, just 14 per cent of people aged 65 or over would be happy with it.

The survey also found 68 per cent of Scots would only use public transport if social distancing was in place – up from 53 per cent last week.

This is being planned by bus and rail operators in Scotland, although the Scottish Government said only key workers should travel for the moment.

A total of 59 per cent of those questioned in Scotland said they would not be happy travelling unless passengers were required to wear masks.

That has increased from 53 per cent last week. The measure is currently only advisory in Scotland. A total of 43 per cent said they would be wearing masks in public, compared to 37 per cent last week.

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In addition, 86 per cent of Scots said hand sanitiser should be available on trains and buses, and at stations and stops – up from 79 per cent.

On travel intentions, nearly two thirds of Scots said they would drive more rather than take public transport, and 54 per cent would cycle or walk more instead.

And 43 per cent said they expected to work from home more often in the future.

A total of 165 people were questioned for the poll in Scotland among a total of 2,026. Meantime, train operator LNER said passengers would only be permitted to travel with reservations from Monday when it increases services following an easing of lockdown restrictions in England.

Travellers may also be prevented from boarding Avanti West Coast trains without a reservation.

East coast main line firm LNER is imposing the restriction to ensure passengers can observe minimum distancing aboard.

It operates Edinburgh-London services, some of which continue to Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow. LNER’s services will increase on Monday from about 35 per cent of normal levels to 60 per cent.

A spokesperson said: “To support physical distancing for customers who do need to travel with us at this time, all LNER services will be reservation only from Monday 18 May.

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“We will have full details updated on our website over the weekend.

“LNER services continue to operate for those who have no alternative travel options.”

Avanti West Coast, which runs trains between Glasgow, Edinburgh and London via the west coast main line, said capacity will be cut to around a quarter of normal levels.

This means passengers who have bought a ticket without a reservation may not be allowed to travel on the next train. The measure is being introduced ahead of timetables being increased on Monday and following updated advice by the UK government.

Phil Whittingham, managing director of Avanti West Coast, said: “We’re appealing to our customers to help us and other passengers by only travelling with a reservation.

“If everyone does this, we’ll be able to keep social distancing in place on board, both for our customers and our people.

“If customers do turn up without a reservation, we’ll do our best to help but we can’t guarantee they’ll be able to take the train they want.”

The firm has introduced hygiene measures, including issuing staff with face masks, enhanced cleaning regimes and closing waiting rooms.

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Services run by English-based train operators will be ramped up from around 50 per cent of the normal timetable to 70 per cent from Monday as part of the easing of restrictions south of the Border.

But a planned 4 per cent increase at ScotRail – currently running at 43 per cent of normal – has been shelved because lockdown restrictions have not been eased in Scotland, and after lobbying from the rail unions which said boosting services would compromise the Stay at Home message.



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