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Public transport during the corona crisis: City bus authorities react to criticism of timetable change

Public transport during the corona crisis : City bus authorities react to criticism of timetable change

Stadtwerke Bonn (SWB), the public transport company received criticism after adopting the Saturday timetable as its normal schedule during the coronavirus crisis. Especially mornings and afternoons, commuters faced crowded quarters or had to wait. Frequency of service is being increased as a result.

Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan has urged a return to the normal public transport timetable. "I have asked Anja Wenmakers, the managing director of the public bus and tram authority, to return to the normal timetable so that passengers do not have to sit and stand so close together," said Sridharan. SWB communications manager Jürgen Winterwerp said Wenmakers then contacted the Rhein-Sieg transport authorities (VRS), "because such a decision can only be made in collaboration".

The mayor was reacting to criticism from passengers who complained about full buses traveling to the Venusberg where the Marienhospital and University Hospitals are located. In an open letter to the Lord Mayor and transportation authorities, the SPD parliamentary group in Bonn addressed the overcrowded buses and suggested increased travel on busy routes in order to keep the risk of infection low. Since Wednesday, buses and trams have been running according to the Saturday timetable. The main reason for the change was the lower passenger volume after the closure of schools and kindergartens and fewer passengers after the restrictions on public life. The SPD also asked for a closer look at the bus frequency to hospitals, saying that these trips need to be increased.

A public bus passenger who works at the University Hospital Bonn posted a picture on Facebook from a bus ride he took on Wednesday morning. The image shows passengers crowded together, one woman holding a protective mask in front of her mouth and nose. "Maybe the university hospital should have a serious word with the SWB," it said underneath.

A GA reader noticed that the move to the Saturday timetable didn’t coincide with commuter demand, which is especially high in the mornings and afternoons. The change to the Saturday timetable was imposed by both the Bonn (SWB) and Cologne public transport authorities (KVB). The reader gave the example of line 16 between Cologne and Bonn.

SWB responded to the criticism: "We have increased the capacity on lines 601 and 600. As of today, there are no more solo buses on line 600, which we have replaced with articulated buses," said SWB Communications Director Jürgen Winterwerp. These lines go to Venusberg, where the Marienhospital is located. Winterwerp explained: "In this crisis we are also learning by the hour." The SWB planned to add more buses at lunchtime and Friday mornings to coincide with the shift change in the hospitals. "In addition, we are monitoring the situation at the central bus station through our staff."

Since Monday, SWB has also tightened hygiene measures in the buses. Entering and leaving the bus is now only possible via the rear door. The driver's cabins are separated from the bus aisles by barrier tape.

Public bus services do not want to disinfect vehicles on a daily basis

SWB and KVB have decided not to disinfect their vehicles on a daily basis as is the case in some other cities. As soon as the first passenger enters the vehicle, it is no longer sterile, SWB and KVB explain. In some tram models, drivers open the doors automatically - if possible - so that commuters do not have to press buttons unnecessarily.

On Tuesday the SWB had announced that they would be operating according to the Saturday timetable from Wednesday on, listing the times in the SWB Easy.Go app. The frequency on Saturdays had been increased as part of the federal project Lead City. According to SWB, they have no confirmed case of coronavirus so far.

(Orig. text: Philipp Königs / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)