Bus stops on move as council steps up battle to keep queues Covid safe in Northampton town centre

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Work starts on Monday to shift Drapery stop to give Christmas shoppers more space

Bus stops in Northampton town centre will be moved in the latest bid to make queues Covid-compliant following more complaints about passengers ignoring rules.

One reader shared a photograph of a solitary police officer watching helplessly as a scrum of workers attempted to board a No 55 service to Swan Valley in the Drapery on Wednesday lunchtime, leaving no space for pedestrians to get past safely.

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Councillors fear the situation will only get worse as the number of seasonal workers increases at business parks around the town and Christmas shoppers come out in force.

Work starts on Monday to shift the Drapery stop to nearby Mercer's Row, where two stops will be created alongside a reconfigured taxi rank.

County council cabinet member, Councillor Jason Smithers, said: “We are keen to encourage people into the town in the lead up to Christmas, and we want them to feel confident and safe whilst doing so, as well as ensuring local business park workforces can safely use the local bus network to travel to their place of work.

"Temporarily relocating the two southbound bus stops from the Drapery to Mercer’s Row will allow people to do this by providing space to queue and board their bus safely.”

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Issues with shift workers queuing for buses have been highlighted ever since the Covid-19 crisis first hit the town back in March.

This was the scene captured by one of our readers in the Drapery on Wednesday lunchtimeThis was the scene captured by one of our readers in the Drapery on Wednesday lunchtime
This was the scene captured by one of our readers in the Drapery on Wednesday lunchtime

Bus operator Stagecoach has already added extra vehicles on crowded routes and pleaded with passengers to follow the rules — particularly over wearing face masks on board.

Northamptonshire Police has issued dozens of fines for non-compliance after launching a crackdown last month but admits it is powerless to issue anything but advice to those not following social distancing guidance before they get on the bus.

A police spokesperson said: “We have been conducting regular patrols of bus stops and have also been pulling buses over to check that people are wearing face coverings while on public transport after complaints were raised about non-compliance with Covid-19 legislation.

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“Unfortunately, police officers have no legal powers to enforce when people are not socially distancing, however, officers do constantly speak to those who they see not observing social distancing in support of our public health priorities, helping people understand why it is so important.

“As always, we ask the public to take personal responsibility and follow the law and advice set out by Government, we all have a duty to do all we can to help stop the spread of coronavirus.”

Barriers will also be installed to separate bus queues from the pedestrian area in Mercer's Row and temporary signage put in place to direct people as part of the scheme funded by the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund which allows local authorities to help people live, work and travel safely whilst using the area.