News from National Express.

September update

A message from National Express who wants to keep you up to date with what the company is doing in preparation for back to school.

Timetable changes for September 2020

National Express West Midlands has made changes to bus timetables across Birmingham and the Black Country on Sunday 30 August 2020, ready for September’s return to school.

We are putting more buses into service, making more double deckers available and changing timetables so people can safely social distance. These changes make 90,000 more seats available every day – and we still have our fleet of sweeper buses on standby at various locations so that if a route or location gets busy, we can send reinforcements.

Other operators’ bus services also changed on Sunday 30 August – please see for details.

Dedicated school-only services

National Express West Midlands will also be running new dedicated school-only bus services this September. Members of the public will not be able to get on these buses.

These dedicated school-only buses are extra to normal services, which will be running at their normal frequencies.

The government has given bus operators specific guidelines about dedicated school-only bus services. These buses are for schoolchildren only, so the social distancing rules for travelling on public transport don’t apply.

New route from Walsall to Wolverhampton

From Tuesday 1 September 2020, National Express West Midlands will be introducing a new bus route between Walsall bus station and Wolverhampton bus station.

The express X529 service will follow much of the route of the popular 529 between Walsall and Wolverhampton (apart from the section between Portobello island and junction 10 of the M6, where the X529 will run non stop along the Black Country Route and Keyway). The X529 will be 10 minutes quicker from end to end as it stops at fewer stops.

Changes to the 80, 80A and 89 – Smethwick

Now that Smethwick High Street is one-way only, service 80 has been withdrawn. All journeys will now be on service 80A.

In addition, there are changes to service 89:
• On journeys towards Birmingham, from Rolfe Street Station, buses will turn right onto the dual carriageway (Tollhouse Way), left onto Fenton Street, right onto St Pauls Road, left onto Holly Lane, left onto Devonshire Road, then right onto Stony Lane to rejoin the normal route.
• On the journey back to West Bromwich, the 89 from Stony Lane will turn left onto Devonshire Road, right onto Holly Lane, right onto St Pauls Road, then continue straight along Smethwick High Street to rejoin the normal route from Blue Gates.

Staying safe on board

Some people may not have been on a bus since March, and we understand that in these weird times, doing things for the first time since lockdown can make people nervous.

Of course at National Express, we are still all about safety. We have redesigned our cleaning regimes to focus on shared surfaces; we have teams of extra cleaners who jump on the buses while they’re stopped in city centres; and all buses are cleaned overnight by “fogging” – an aerosol-based disinfection containing a high-performance antiviral solution that settles in the hard-to-reach areas.

Key workers

I also wanted to draw your attention to some interesting data we’ve been looking at. At the moment, bus journeys across the region are taking half as much time as they did before the pandemic took a lot of traffic off the streets. So hundreds of thousands of NHS heroes, care workers and supermarket staff are able to spend more time at home with their families.

But Department for Transport statistics for 24 August 2020 show that car use across the UK is already back up to 94% of pre-lockdown levels.

We really need to keep the buses running smoothly by all working together to protect them from traffic congestion. If we don’t, our NHS heroes will again be spending more and more of their free time on buses stuck in traffic, when they should be at home with their loved ones.

Virtual Bus Bash

Lastly, if you’re a bit of a bus geek, then a) you should be proud, and b) you should know that our annual Bus Bash this year is a virtual event on 5 and 6 September. There will be interesting and quirky photos, exclusive video clips and online events to help raise money for charity. And on Saturday 5 September, we will have a special convoy of all our heritage buses through Birmingham city centre – IRL!

Details of the Facebook event here. We hope to “see” you “there”.

Phil Bateman

Phil Bateman is Married to Mary and lives in Wednesfield North. He was a long serving local politician having served previously on the now defunct West Midlands County Council... read more