Newcastle’s busiest bus station is to become ‘boarding only’ for passengers as part of actions to make the city centre and its public transport covid secure.
Haymarket Bus Station will, from Monday, 15 June, be reserved for passengers boarding buses, with numbers expected to grow in the weeks ahead.
People arriving in the city on routes which normally terminate at Haymarket will be asked to alight at the previous stop, on main streets beside Newcastle Civic Centre.
The move by Nexus, which manages Haymarket on behalf of Newcastle City Council, will reduce the number of people using the bus station, making it easier to maintain social distancing.
Nexus is also deploying extra customer service teams across the seven major bus stations and interchanges it manages to assist passengers in maintaining social distancing.
Huw Lewis, Customer Services Director at Nexus, said: “We are working with bus operators and Newcastle City Council to provide a covid-secure environment as lockdown eases.
“All our main bus stations have comprehensive guidance for customers, extra staff on duty and queue management plans, which complement the information people will find on buses themselves.
“Making Haymarket Bus Station ‘boarding only’ means the terminal building will be less busy, queues can social distance and the number of people crossing each other’s paths is reduced.”
Martijn Gilbert, Chair of NEbus representing the region’s bus operators, said "Bus operators are working hard to keep buses safe and further enhance arrangements in the face of COVID-19 including additional cleaning regimes, social distancing arrangements onboard, requiring payment by contactless bankcard, app or the exact fare, and asking customers to wear a face covering.
“Adjustments are being made in all walks of life and we are continuing to work with Nexus and Local Authority partners on the best way to manage bus stop and interchange social distancing and highways changes to support commuters and enable bus networks to continue to function and transport people back to work, retail activities and more."
Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality said: “As coronavirus restrictions start to ease, we’re working with a range of partners, including Nexus, to ensure that the city is a safe and welcoming place for people.
“We have a number of measures in place in the city centre to help with social distancing, with queuing areas marked for shoppers, city hosts on our streets and one-way systems to help people shop safely.
“Public transport is a vital link for many of our city’s residents, so we welcome these new measures at busy bus stations, which will provide reassurance and keep passengers safe.”
From Monday, 15 June, public transport users will be required to wear face coverings – such as a mask, scarf or snood covering the nose and mouth - when travelling throughout their journey. Exemptions apply for children under 11 and people with some disabilities.
People with restricted mobility will be able to stay on buses into Haymarket if they would have difficulty at alternative stops, but all other passengers will be asked to alight at Barras Bridge (buses from Great North Road) or St Mary’s Place (buses from Coast Road)
Neighbouring Eldon Square Bus Station has also been modified to make it more covid-secure. Newcastle City Council has created extra drop-off bays immediately outside the concourse building, so that buses can always pull onto their stands empty to pick up boarding passengers.
Nexus has provided comprehensive guidance and signage throughout the bus stations and interchanges it manages – Haymarket and Eldon Square in Newcastle, Park Lane in Sunderland, Gateshead Interchange and Heworth in Gateshead, South Shields Interchange in South Tyneside and Four Lane Ends Interchange in North Tyneside.
Nexus teams who normally work in Travelshops will be working at stations and interchanges to assist passengers. The shops remain temporarily closed, as they have been since 23 March, with customers directed to the website nexus.org.uk or Metro ticket machines to make purchases.