Letter – Extra bus capacity to support safe return to school

Dear Director of Education,

Extra bus capacity to support safe return to school

To support the safe return of pupils and students to school and colleges this month, we would like to share an update with you on work we have carried out to boost capacity on the bus network at peak times.

After securing more than £2m in government funding, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has worked with operators to run around 300 additional bus journeys on the public commercial network each weekday across the region.

This means duplicate buses – exclusively for school and college students and staff – will run up to five minutes behind scheduled services at set times, with the usual route number starting in ‘S’ to show they are school services. These buses and journeys are separate to existing dedicated school bus services and TfGM’s Yellow School Bus services.

Approximately 150 duplicate journeys will run in the morning, and a further 150 in the afternoon, to support journeys to and from school and free up capacity on the commercial bus network for other passengers.

We are introducing duplicate journeys where pre-lockdown passenger data has shown the highest number of schoolchildren travelling and where bus seats are expected to be in high demand as a result.

We have set up a dedicated web page at tfgm.com/duplicate-school-buses, where your parents, carers and students can find all the latest information on the extra services. Alternatively, they can contact our Customer Services team on 0161 244 1000, use our online enquiry form at tfgm.com/contact-form or get in touch on Twitter @OfficialTfGM.

Could you please encourage your schools and colleges to make parents and students aware of the new TfGM page, so they can check the times for any duplicate journeys in their area?

Approximately 90% of schoolchildren who use the bus to get to and from school travel on the commercial bus network, which is why the Department for Education funding has been used to expand these services. The government has also relaxed social distancing rules on dedicated school transport and we expect the duplicate journeys, along with other dedicated school services and Yellow School Buses, to be able to run at 100% capacity.

Duplicate journeys, which run from the beginning of the new school year, will be in place until the autumn half-term holiday, subject to demand. Working with bus operators, we will continually monitor usage to make sure capacity is running in the right place, and will reallocate buses if needed.

However, in line with government guidance, could you also ask staff and students to cycle and walk to school where possible? If this is not an option, parents and students who are planning to use public transport – even with the new journeys in place – should be aware that capacity could be limited and should plan ahead and check timetables in advance.

As mentioned in previous correspondence, when travelling, students should allow extra time for their journeys in case services are full, be patient with other passengers and continue to adhere to the ongoing guidance for those who must use school buses, commercial services and wider public transport to keep themselves and others safe. This includes:

  • Wearing a face covering (if they are 11+ years old) and unless they are exempt.
  • Keeping their distance from other passengers where possible.
  • Cleaning their hands regularly, and carrying hand sanitiser with them.
  • Using contactless payment or exact change only, in line with bus operator requirements.

We are aware that each school will have a different set of circumstances, but if there is anything further that you or your school and college leadership teams require then please do not hesitate to contact us or a member of the TfGM Bus team at operationalserviceplanning@tfgm.com.

Yours faithfully,

Gareth Turner, Interim Head of Travel Change
Alison Chew, Interim Head of Bus Services
Transport for Greater Manchester