First Manchester launches new app feature to support social distancing on buses

Date published: 03 June 2020

First Manchester is launching an update to its mobile app that will enable customers across the region to live track the location of their next bus and its available capacity, as the operator continues to develop ways to help customers social distance on board its fleet.

Going live this week, the app update will show customers a bus icon on a map depicting the live location and available capacity of each vehicle in the vicinity.

This new functionality, the first to be introduced by a major bus operator, will allow customers to make informed decisions about their essential journeys.

Ian Humphreys, Managing Director of First Manchester, said: “This is another way we’re using technology to ensure safe, informed travel during these difficult times.

"Our buses provide an essential service for our customers and we are doing all we can to support them.”

First Manchester typically recorded over 12,000 customers a month on its mobile app prior to lockdown and in May this was some 1,400 transactions, which illustrates how fewer people are currently using buses and heeding the guidance to avoid public transport.

The innovation has been made possible by First Bus’s new passenger counting functionality, announced at the end of May. Data from this system feeds directly to the First Bus app in real time.

This app update coincides with First Manchester increasing services, following confirmation last week of further support from the Government to bus operators.

With social distancing guidance being observed at the same time as lockdown restrictions are being relaxed, this additional capacity will allow customers to travel in comfort and safety.

Mr Humphreys added: “To further support social distancing, and in addition to passenger counting, seats on each bus are now clearly marked indicating where customers should sit.”

First continues to encourage cashless payments, and use of the App to purchase mTickets, to reduce the need for contact between customers and drivers.

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