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New Routemaster London bus
Front boarding on a new Routemaster. Photograph: TfL

You can board London buses from the front again

Oh, and you have to pay fares again. Sorry.

Written by
Chris Waywell

TfL announced today (Friday May 29) that passengers will be able to board buses in London through the front doors again on 124 routes from Saturday May 30. It anticipates that all routes will have returned to front-boarding again by mid-June. Analysis by University College London has found that safety improvements made to driver screens by TfL now mean that passengers boarding by the driver’s cab is now safe.

Middle-door boarding was introduced on all London buses that had middle doors in mid-April, amid fears that staff safety was being put at risk. Although lockdown has seen an 85 percent reduction in bus usage in the capital, TfL staff, especially bus drivers, showed a disproportionately high number of cases of infection and death. At the same time, TfL made all bus travel in London free, with customers not being required to tap in upon boarding. 

Since then, there has been a huge effort to get buses operating safely both for staff and passengers. New measures have been introduced, including sealing off the gap in drivers’ screens where once upon a time, you could pay by cash. Further initiatives are being introduced to ensure appropriate passenger distancing. You can’t use seats near the driver, standing is discouraged, and passengers will be expected to use the top deck and stay seated.

London bus driver in protective equipment
London bus driver in protective equipment / TfL

In a press statement, TfL says: ‘Reverting to pre-pandemic arrangements will improve social distancing for customers entering or exiting the bus by reinstating the traditional flows on and off the bus, and while queuing at stops or stations. To further ensure the safety of customers and bus drivers, new limits to the number of customers on board at any one time will be introduced. This will help customers to observe the national guidance to maintain a two-metre distance between them and others wherever possible.’ At the same time, passengers will now have to tap in and pay for their journey, as before.

So, basically, we’re all going be hearing the phrase ‘There’s another one just behind me’ from drivers A LOT in the coming months.

Despite these measures, the advice about bus travel remains unchanged. Heidi Alexander, deputy mayor for transport, said: ‘Our message to Londoners is clear, though – please work from home and travel on foot or bike if you can. If you absolutely have to travel on our network, wear a face mask, avoid the busiest times and respect the new arrangements to enable everyone to travel safely.’

It’s not back to normal, but it’s a start. Oh, and we assume THAT GUY who tries to sneak on through the middle doors to avoid paying will still be at it. 

Find ways to support your community in our guide: how to help (and get help) in London.

Here are some more transport measures to bear in mind before travelling. 

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