Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is working closely with police and bus, rail and tram operators to keep the region moving safely as coronavirus lockdown restrictions begin to ease and more people return to work.
Keeping passengers and staff safe remains the priority and with an increase in public transport use expected tomorrow, staff across the region are watching carefully and are ready to respond if any issues arise. However people are still being urged to avoid public transport, and only travel if the journey is essential.
To help keep those who need to travel safe, the Regional Transport Coordination Centre (RTCC), which has access to 1,700 CCTV cameras covering our bus, rail, tram and road networks, will be monitoring the situation and are ready to alert transport operators and police to prevent crowding and other issues.
Regular updates on congestion and pinch points will also be issued to the travelling public via the West Midlands Network website and social media accounts so commuters can avoid potential bottlenecks and maintain social distancing.
To allow for continued social distancing as passenger numbers rise, West Midlands Railway are increasing services with a new timetable on Monday, 18th May. National Express West Midlands is also expected to increase the number of buses it has out on key routes to help create more space as demand rises.
Waiting areas, bus stations and platforms are clearly marked to help guide passengers on social distancing, and extra staff will be deployed at key interchanges to help advise the public.
Additional heavy cleaning, including high touch areas such as handrails, is continuing across the network and West Midlands Metro tram doors are opening automatically at stops so passengers no longer need to touch push-buttons.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said:
“Our advice is still very clear, that people should only travel on public transport if it is absolutely essential. But with more people now given the green light to return to work as lockdown restrictions begin to ease, it is clear that the number of essential journeys will increase.
“Therefore the region is standing by and is ready to deal with this increased demand. From putting on extra services to using our state-of-the-art RTCC facility to monitor the network and update the public, we will do everything we can to keep those who rely on public transport safe.
“But we also need people to play their part, including walking, cycling, or driving to work wherever possible. For those who do rely on public transport, please respect staff and fellow passengers, and follow the official advice on how to keep yourself safe – including wearing face coverings.”
Commuters are also being warned that journeys by car could be different to normal, with changes to road layouts, especially in town and city centres, meaning drivers may not be able to access key car parks, or may need to take alternative routes. Drivers should check traffic levels and for road closures before they set off.
To encourage more people to cycle and walk, TfWM is working in collaboration with all seven of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA’s) local authorities to draw up plans that include using road space for cycle lanes, widening pavements, or even closing some roads. The West Midlands already has 345 miles of dedicated cycleway including towpaths and cycling routes.
Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said:
“Our absolute priority must be safety, so wherever possible people should cycle or walk. We are already taking action to help more people make that choice including starting work on Erdington and Kings Heath high streets to make it easier for people to walk while keeping a safe distance.
“It is not only safer during this coronavirus outbreak, it is healthier and better for the environment in the longer term.”
Measures being introduced by Network Rail at New Street station include: a one way system around the station; restricted entry and exit points; social distancing markings on columns, platforms and the concourse; regular safety announcements; extra staff on hand to give advice and help passengers.
Pat Power, New Street station manager, said:
“We are putting in place a range of measures to help keep passengers and staff safe at New Street station. These include a one way system, restricted entry and exit points and clear social distancing markings on floors. We urge people to only travel by if absolutely necessary and to be safe, patient and kind as everyone adapts to these arrangements.”
As well as the work TfWM and the region’s operators are doing, the following advice has also been issued to passengers:
When you arrive at stops or stations check for any changes to the way to you need to enter or exit • Other advice includes catching any coughs or sneezes, and washing hands regularly or using hand sanitiser.
Live updates from the RTCC can be found at https://www.wmnetwork.co.uk/ or follow on Twitter @WMNetwork and @WMRoads