Residents of Greater Manchester are being advised to help keep themselves, transport staff and others safe by only travelling when necessary; cycling, walking or driving as their first choice of travelling; and avoiding public transport wherever possible.
Those who are unable to cycle, walk or drive and must use public transport can help maintain a safer environment by following a few simple measures:
• Wear a face covering
• Keep a two-metre distance where possible on the platform, stop, station and on board
• Wash or sanitise your hands regularly and carry you own hand sanitiser
• Use contactless payment methods or smart ticketing where possible and use exact change if cash is needed
The messages form part of a new campaign launched this week to remind passengers of their collective responsibility to follow the government’s travel guidance during the coronavirus outbreak in England. Last week, the government published new guidance which reiterated the social distancing and hygiene advice it had already released earlier in the year, but added new guidance around the wearing of cloth face coverings in crowded places, such as public transport.
Currently, only 12% of passengers were observed wearing face coverings on Metrolink on Monday morning*, compared to an average of 10.3% last week and 6.9% the previous week.
The campaign will include posters displayed at stops, interchanges and on-board vehicles to offer the latest safety advice to passengers, as well as digital advertising, social media and announcements on board trams and on platforms and in bus stations and interchanges.
Measures have already been taken across Greater Manchester to encourage people to consider cycling and walking their journeys where possible. The recently launched #SafeStreetsSaveLivescampaign saw £5m of emergency funding made available for the Greater Manchester councils to introduce pop up, temporary measures to enable more space for those choosing to walk or cycle during the coronavirus pandemic. And the amount of people cycling has risen by 42% since the coronavirus epidemic started.
TfGM’s Customer Director, Stephen Rhodes, said: “The message around public transport is clear - people should avoid using it wherever possible and look to cycle, walk or even drive for their essential journeys if they can.
“But we recognise some people will have no other option, particularly as more people start returning to work.
“Although services will start to increase slowly, train, tram and bus services have limited capacity - particularly with social distancing - and wherever possible should be kept free for key workers and people who rely on them.
“Anyone using public transport should follow government guidance around face coverings, social distancing, basic hygiene routines and contactless payment.
“We’ve launched this campaign to help reinforce these behaviours amongst passengers and remind them that we all have a part to play to keep ourselves and each other safe.”
While discussions are continuing with government over a longer-term funding for Metrolink following the significant reduction in patronage, the Mayor of Greater Manchester yesterday announced that Greater Manchester’s leaders have agreed to increase the frequency of tram services on all lines from 20 to 12 minutes (Monday - Saturday) from next Tuesday.
First and last tram times will remain the same and as many trams as possible will run as double trams to help with social distancing.
During lockdown, concessionary pass holders were able to use the region’s train, bus and tram networks before 9.30am - in recognition of the low numbers of passengers using them at the time. In order to maximise capacity during the morning peak periods to enable those returning to work to travel safely, free travel for concessionary pass holders will revert to being available after 9.30am on weekdays, and all day on weekends and bank holidays.
TfGM is working closely with transport operators to ensure public transport remains safe, with enhanced cleaning remaining in place, with stops, stations and interchanges and buses, trams and trains cleaned and disinfected regularly.
For information on public transport across Greater Manchester visit www.tfgm.com, call 0161 244 1000 (7am-8pm, Monday to Friday, and 8am-8pm at weekends and bank holidays) or follow @OfficialTfGM on Twitter.
*Based on 591 people observed getting off trams at Victoria and St Peter’s Square tram stops.