Londoners urged to travel to work in the fresh air on an open-top sightseeing bus

Exclusive: ‘You cannot beat this for a Covid-secure travel option,’ said Snap chief executive Thomas Ableman

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Monday 20 July 2020 12:10 BST
Open-top commute: Londoners urged to travel to work in the fresh air

As the return-to-work gets under way, Londoners are being urged to travel to work in the fresh air aboard an open-top sightseeing bus.

Snap, the bus and coach crowdsourcing platform, is running a free trial service between Walthamstow in northeast London and the centre of the capital, shadowing the Victoria Line – which Transport for London warns is busy for its entire length.

The radical new plan has been drawn up by Snap’s chief executive, Thomas Ableman, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Aboard a sightseeing bus belonging to The Original Tour, he told The Independent: “One thing we know is that a lot of people are very nervous about using the London Tube.

“I don’t want people who are nervous about using the Tube to start using cars instead. There’s 233 open-top buses like this one in London. Let’s put them to work taking commuters to the office.

“This is literally the ultimate in Covid-secure public transport.”

Transport for London’s stated aim in response to coronavirus was to reduce demand for buses and the Tube by over 85 per cent, which appears to have been achieved.

Car use in the capital, however, is down by around only 20 per cent.

Apart from the trial service from Walthamstow Central to Victoria there is no set route for the sightseeing buses. Instead, prospective passengers register their journey requirements on a crowd-sourcing platform,

The plan is to establish hubs at each end of a popular journey.

“We only need to get about 20 people on one single line-of-route to get a pop-up, open-top bus route running, pretty much from anywhere to anywhere if enough of your neighbours want to make similar journey,’ said Mr Ableman. “It’s just a function of demand.”

Fares will depend on how many fellow travellers want to make the same journey.

“If enough people want it we can charge a similar price to the Tube fare. It’s not a premium-priced option.”

A live tracking app gives commuters visibility of their bus’s location and expected arrival time, as well as enabling contact tracing should a passenger subsequently test positive for coronavirus.

Passengers will not, though, get a running commentary on their journey.

“You’ll need to do your own sightseeing on the way in, but there’ll probably be plenty to see whether you’re coming in from Harrow or Harringay,” said Mr Ableman.

Snap estimates there is sufficient open-top capacity in the UK for 30,000 commuters to travel to work in the fresh air on a double-decker.

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