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Sheppey bus company TravelMasters adds screens and sanitiser for school run

It's going to be all-change on the buses when pupils go back to school.

As head teachers have been busy revamping classrooms across Kent for a return to lessons, coach companies have been preparing their fleet of vehicles, too.

Tim Lambkin, managing director of Sheppey bus firm TravelMasters
Tim Lambkin, managing director of Sheppey bus firm TravelMasters

Among them is Tim Lambkin, the managing director of TravelMasters on the Isle of Sheppey. The lockdown drastically affected his businesses.

He said: "On Friday, March 20, we were taking 1,565 pupils to school. After the lockdown, all that changed. By the following Monday we had just five customers."

He has continued to maintain three services: the 370 which takes children from Sheerness and Leysdown to the five secondary schools in Sittingbourne; the 372 which takes youngsters from Lower Halstow to the Sittingbourne schools and the 373 which transports Sittingbourne pupils to the Oasis Academy at Minster.

But when schools return on Monday, June 1, he is having to revamp his fleet.

Hand sanitisers have been installed in all vehicles for passengers and drivers and engineers are fitting shields to protect the drivers.

Tim Lambkin next to hand sanitiser installed on all TravelMasters buses at the Sheerness depot on Sheppey
Tim Lambkin next to hand sanitiser installed on all TravelMasters buses at the Sheerness depot on Sheppey

Mr Lambkin said: "Ironically, they came with the buses as part of London anti-assault equipment. But we have very little need of that here so we took them all off. Now we are putting them back and extending the screens."

To meet social distancing guidelines, the capacity of the buses has been halved from 70 to 35. Numbers will be strictly monitored by the drivers' ticket machines.

The company has also installed a thermal-imaging camera in the staff room. Any driver identified with a high temperature will be sent home and not able to work until a Covid-19 test has been taken.

Additional cleaners have been taken on so each bus can be deep-cleaned on its return to its depot in Sheerness. Mr Lambkin is also investigating buying "aerosol bombs" which clean the insides of buses automatically.

But at £9 a can, and each bus needing two cans a day, he says the bill over the next term could be an extra £27,000.

Tim Lambkin next to a driver's door shield being installed on all TravelMasters buses at the Sheerness depot on Sheppey
Tim Lambkin next to a driver's door shield being installed on all TravelMasters buses at the Sheerness depot on Sheppey

Air purifiers are being fitted to vehicles to clean the air while air-conditioning or heating systems are running.

He has also bought two new buses to cope with the reduced capacity of his existing fleet of 35.

TravelMasters had its operator’s licence increased to run a further seven vehicles on May 18 by the Traffic Commissioner.

The company is still providing emergency train replacement cover and private coach hire and is able to offer companies getting back to work safe transfers for staff.

Mr Lambkin said: "These are interesting and very challenging times."

Going nowhere: the fleet of TravelMasters's buses on the Isle of Sheppey
Going nowhere: the fleet of TravelMasters's buses on the Isle of Sheppey

Read more: Latest news from the Isle of Sheppey here

Read more: Latest news from Sittingbourne here


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