NAT Group has reassured the public that it is ready for an increase in passenger numbers as and when lockdown measures are reduced and people begin to return to work.
NAT Group is one of South Wales’ leading transport providers with depots across the region and over 150 vehicles. Adapting to current safety measures, the operator has been running reduced services since the ‘Stay at Home’ message was first announced in March, as well as free travel for key workers and a contactless payment system. It was also one of the first operators in the UK to introduce a temporary ‘no cash’ policy, for the safety of it’s frontline employees.
Now carrying around 9% of the passengers it would normally carry, NAT Group reports seeing an extremely sharp drop in passenger numbers in late March, with passenger numbers remaining largely flat thereafter, with a slight increase starting around two weeks ago.
Keeping up-to-date with regular guidelines, NAT Group now has limited seats available on each journey to ensure passengers can easily socially distance and is considering a number of further measures including increased signage and physical seat restrictions. In addition to the temporary protective driver screens that were fitted by the company some weeks ago, the company is also now considering specifying adjustable protective screens on any new vehicles purchased.
However, NAT Group Managing Director Adam Keen has warned that the new restrictions are putting huge financial pressures on the sector.
Adam said: “The safety of our customers and staff will always be our priority and we are complying with all requirements the government has asked of us, however, it has been incredibly hard to get hold of PPE, with many bulk orders understandably being diverted to the NHS.
“Social distancing will mean much lower passenger numbers and a lightly loaded bus is generally loss-making for the company. Putting more buses on to cope with additional passenger numbers is going to be very difficult financially. We, and other operators, are now in regular discussions with Welsh Government officials to try and secure stimulus funding to support us through this very difficult period of time. While we have been able to continue to provide our essential service up to now, but the most difficult period is still to come, and funding for the recovery will be crucial.
“Going forwards, we will endeavor to meet the aspirations of our passengers who want to be able to travel, whilst also working on restoring passenger confidence once lockdown ends so that the bus remains a viable, good value alternative to the car.”
For information about NAT Group, visit www.natgroup.co.uk.