A local man said he felt “very uncomfortable” on a busy bus between North Hykeham and Lincoln, where people were “packed like sardines” — but operator Stagecoach says it hasn’t broken any rules.
Scott Withers got on the number 16 service from the Hykeham Village Green to go into the town centre at around 9.10am on Wednesday, December 15.
He told The Lincolnite the bus “was packed” and he believes there were more than 20 people standing up at one point, but that “the driver still kept stopping every stop to pick up more and more passengers”.
However, Stagecoach East Midlands said standing capacity on single deck buses ranges from 21 to 31 people, so the bus in question hadn’t breached any regulations, and that there are no set capacity limits given specifically in the national COVID guidelines.
Stagecoach added that it is also working hard to address the driver shortage problem after taking on a number of new workers across Lincolnshire. This should reduce the disruption to bus timetables by early 2022.
Scott said: “It made me feel very uncomfortable. Some people had been waiting at the stop for over an hour. Personally I was there for 45 minutes before the bus came.
“The most uncomfortable thing was, even though the bus was packed with over 20 standing, at one point the driver kept stopping every stop to pick up more and more passengers. All the windows were steamed up, yet we were packed on like sardines.
“There were people pension age that were standing. The ironic thing was there was a sign up saying they cleaned the buses more regularly and the public’s safety was their main concern, yet people were standing, touching each other with bodily contact. And they wonder why the COVID numbers are going up.”
A spokesperson for Stagecoach East Midlands said in a statement to The Lincolnite: “Our drivers are aware of the capacity, which varies depending on the vehicle, and will continue to monitor the number of passengers on board.
“Standing capacity on our single deck buses ranges from 21 to 31 people, so the vehicle in question was in line with these regulations. We are working closely with our relevant partners at the local authorities to ensure our operations meet COVID guidelines, and at the moment there is no limit to capacity.
“The safety of our passengers and staff is our upmost priority and we will continue to work with our drivers and partners to keep our operations safe.”
We asked Stagecoach about the ongoing cancellation lists for bus services, which are being published on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis. We also asked about the driver shortage situation and how much longer cancellations would likely continue for.
A statement from Stagecoach East Midlands said: “We are pleased to have recruited a number of new bus drivers across Lincolnshire.
“These drivers will play an important role in reducing service disruptions caused by driver shortages, and employee absences related to COVID-19.
“Once these new recruits have completed their 12-week driver training in early 2022, we will be able to reduce timetable changes caused by driver shortages.
“In the meantime, we appreciate the patience of our passengers as we work hard to provide a reliable service.”
This comes after Matt Cranwell, managing director of Stagecoach East Midlands, previously explained various causes of the issues and what the bus operator is doing to make sure they can return to their full service as quickly as possible.