ABILITY – Connecting People With Places By Safely Restarting Rural Bus Services

ABILITY, who provides community bus services in the North Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire rural areas into local towns, are pleased to announce re-commencement of their services following lockdown.

Lynn Hinch Director of ABILITY said “When the pandemic started, quite rightly most of the passengers stopped travelling and we had to suspend services as it was not safe for us or the passengers. With help of a grant from Northamptonshire Community Foundation we launched KIT (Keeping in Touch) program, where the team kept in communication with our customers by post, with postcards and birthday cards, and we also spoke with them on the telephone as we were missing them as much as they were missing us and their friends! A community bus is more than a means of transport, it’s a lifeline, and sometimes the only opportunity they have to get out. We received numerous letters, cards and messages wishing us well and thanking us.”

Since communicating the restarting of their services, they have been inundated with calls as a significant number of people are desperate to get out and return to some level of normality, whilst understandably a number are still very cautious and are lacking confidence to go out. To help regain the confidence they have issued passenger guidance and have a strict cleaning regime for the frequently touch points between journeys, as well as regular floor and hard surface cleaning as part of their new Standard Operating Procedures.

They are planning to expand their coverage of the area they operate in, with the purchase of two additional minibuses and a smaller wheelchair accessible vehicle.

Their “days out trips” to garden centres, retail outlets, leisure and luncheon venues around the
surrounding areas will commence again in September, and they are also taking bookings for group travel
services, whereby local organisations and groups can hire the bus and driver to go for their own outing.

Passenger guidance
• Anyone with Coronavirus symptoms will not be permitted to travel (High Temperature, new continuous cough, loss of taste or smell). Each bus has a non-contact thermometer.
• All journeys are pre-booked so we can provide contact tracing for every passenger and journey.
• The Driver will advise which seats can be occupied as we have reduced the seating capacity to allow social distancing.
• All passengers will need to board the bus unaided and be able to fit the seat belt themselves as we must minimise close contact.
• Passengers must always wear a face mask on the bus (Mandatory) and we recommend wearing of gloves. Upon boarding, passengers are encouraged to use sanitiser hand gel.
• Passengers must take with them all waste items such as tissues, disposable gloves and masks and not leave them on the bus.
• Journey times to be no longer than 30 mins (unless agreed) to minimise transmission of the virus.
• The buses are fitted with extraction fans and the windows will be open to allow frequent air changes. The air conditioning system will only be used if necessary.
• We actively keep cleaning the interior touch points to minimise transmission of the virus.
• Passengers should follow the guidance of the government regarding hand washing, distancing, and avoid touching your face, to minimise the spread of the virus.

ABILITY covers the rural parishes in North Oxfordshire and South Northants with regular services into Banbury, Brackley, Towcester and Northampton to allow access to town centres and supermarkets.

If you want to know more about ABILITY email info@abilitycic.org.uk or visit www.abilitycic.org.uk
Telephone: 01327 604123.