Oxfordshire and Thames Valley Bus operators launch new AI-driven tech to help social distancing

Oxford Bus Company

Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel are launching a newwebsite feature to help give customers who need to travel confidence as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

Customers making journeys will be able to check buses live on the company websites to see how busy they are.

The ‘When2Travel’ tool will use predictive technology to help passengers avoid busy times while capacity is reduced to enable social distancing. Combined with enhanced hygiene and the wearing of face coverings it aims to provide customers with the confidence to use buses as they return to work and other activities.

The feature offers colour-coded bus timetables that show seat availability on services. It uses data from hardware on buses, including a passenger counting system on the ticket machine, plus data that has been submitted by customers who are travelling on the bus.

Created by Go-Ahead, the parent company of Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel in collaboration with tech partner CitySwift, the service will go live in Oxfordshire this Wednesday (17 June).

Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel have implemented reduced vehicle capacities to help maintain social distancing on-board for people who need to travel. This includes taking some seats out of use and customer signage to encourage people to sit apart. Customers are still asked to pay using contactless payments or purchase tickets from the apps available.

Enhanced cleaning regimes on all vehicles are being maintained and carefully monitored, with a continued greater focus on high-touch areas. Extra PPE and cleaning equipment have also been provided to colleagues to ensure drivers and customers stay safe during this time.

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel Managing Director said: “We have taken various measures to ensure our servicers are safe and that we are here for our customers when they need us. Our priorities have been cleanliness, social distancing and establishing a convenient way for customers to plan their journeys with confidence.

“Our enhanced cleaning regimes, combined with the government advice to wash hands frequently, pay by contactless, and wear face coverings while on board, means customers can travel in safety and with confidence.”

Customers are reminded wearing face coverings on public transport is mandatory from today until further notice. It is not mandatory to wear face coverings when waiting at a bus stop, but it is advised customers put their covering on before queuing to board the bus to avoid delays. Children under eleven are exempt from wearing face coverings.

Temporary perspex screens have been fitted on driver booths for enhanced protection and therefore it is discretionary for bus drivers to wear face coverings. Face coverings do not need to be a mask, they can be simple and can be made easily at home following government guidance.