COVID-19, the virus which turned “Positive” into being the most negative word of this year. It is no secret that the bus industry has been adversely affected by the pandemic and its high time that we start fighting back. We at Bitla are standing shoulder to shoulder with our bus operator friends during these tough times. We have been working hard and have come up with solutions for the private bus industry.
We thoroughly went through the safety measures and the regulations imposed by the government on the bus industry. We concluded that we could fight this situation through a well-integrated communication system and technical solutions for the safety and well being of the passengers.
To dig deeper into the solution, let’s start with understanding the problem. We all know that the spread of the virus can only be curbed by creating contactless bus travel. To help make efficient contactless bus travel for our passengers, let’s go through each step of the journey to understand further and eliminate all the avoidable touchpoints.
These are the different stages of the journey, which involve passengers coming in physical proximity with the bus operator, branch manager, ticket booking agent, driver, conductor or any other crew member.
- Ticket Booking
- Pre-journey Interaction
- Boarding Point / Pick-up Point
- During the journey
- Checking Inspector / Rest Stop
- Drop-off Point
Let’s start with the first stage, ticket booking:
1. What are the changes we are doing to make the ticket booking contactless?
Tickets are booked through the following channels:
- Branch/Agent office
- Website e-booking
- Phone booking
- Road-side pickup.
Here, except Website e-booking, all other types of bookings need to be made contactless as they include the exchange of currency or Debit/Credit cards.
To fight this issue, we have integrated a feature through which online payments can be made quickly through UPI accounts and other digital wallets like PayTM & Mobikwik. Going further, we will be adding Google Pay, PhonePe and other wallets on the system as well.
2. How can we make the boarding/pickup point safer?
For this issue, we have considered all the possible types of boarding points like branch/agent outlets, road-side pickup, designated private bus stands etc. Such places are usually crowded public places which are really unsafe for our passengers, and so we came up with the solution of minimum waiting time for boarding.
To ensure this, you just need to use the GPS tracking system on your buses and send the passengers tracking links through which they will be able to see the live location of the buses. This will help them know the exact location of the bus, and they will be able to plan their commute to the boarding point accordingly.
Your conductors and drivers (Your COVID Warriors) will have to ensure that while boarding the bus the passengers should follow the social distancing norms, wear masks all the time, and avoid touching the interiors of the buses.
3. Boarding point is the place where passengers gather and wait to board the bus. In the case of bus journeys, they are not regulated places mostly. How do we ensure the passenger’s safety?
Boarding Point safety needs to be taken care of by our COVID Warriors including Driver, conductor, branch manager etc. They need to be available at the boarding point to ensure that all the rules are being followed, including social distancing, wearing masks all the time and avoid touching surfaces.
4. Buses being in an enclosed area with people from different places travelling together for long hours. What are the measures being taken to ensure that social distancing is maintained and the journey with other travellers would be safe?
This is the most crucial part of bus travelling as the passenger will be in one enclosed area with other passengers coming from different places. During such times, when there is so much panic around us, we need to ensure that each passenger is safe to travel with. To do so, the following steps need to be followed:
- Mandatory Temperature Checks of both passengers and crew
- Sanitisers to be available
- Wearing Masks should be mandatory throughout the journey
- Availability of PPE kits for interested passengers at minimal extra cost
Apart from this, we also have to increase their trust in the safety of bus travel. For that, we have added a feature on your Bitla System. Once all the passengers have been checked, and the conductor updates it on the bus mobility app, the passengers will get a message stating that each fellow passenger is asymptomatic and is safe to travel.
5. The next important part of boarding is handling the luggage, where it is difficult to implement the contactless bus journey idea. What do we do about that?
One of the solutions to this problem is by not allowing any luggage inside the coach. Next thing that can be done is the crew members can add a tag to each luggage and share it with the passenger so that the luggage can easily be identified at the end of the journey. If required, the tag number can also be entered in the bus mobility app, which will send an instant message to the passenger with the tag details and will also help identify the luggage during deboarding.
6. During the journey, the safety of the passengers depends on the bus driver and the conductor/helper. How can we train them in handling the passengers in such a situation?
Your bus driver, conductor or helper, are the only COVID Warriors we can depend on to help us survive this pandemic. They have proven to be great till now but have to be more cautious as there is a massive advent in the number of cases. They would have to follow some regulations, as mentioned below, strictly:
- Get their temperature checked before every trip.
- Wear mask and gloves all the time for their own safety
- Check each passenger’s temperature and allow only the non-symptomatic ones.
- Ask the last minute passengers to use the digital modes of payment like scanning the QR codes, online payment wallets, etc.
- Keep all the required details of the passengers. This will help us to track the passengers if, in case, any of the co-passengers have been tested positive within a few days of travelling.
- Ensure that passengers follow the social distancing norms of keeping distance between them of 1.5 meters at all times, waiting at the boarding point, while boarding, inside the bus, at the rest stops and deboarding.
- If senior citizens are travelling on the bus, take extra care of them.
- Ensure that each passenger sanitise their hand before boarding the bus and also regularly throughout the journey
- Since the passengers are currently scared so to make their journey comfortable, it is vital to maintain a friendly environment.
7. What are the other things that should be taken care of to provide the passengers with safe travel experience?
To provide the passengers with safe travel experience, the following are a few points that should be taken care of:
- Deep cleaning and sanitisation of buses after every trip
- Access to hand sanitisers in all buses
- Ensuring that driver, conductor and passengers wear personal safety masks
- Thermal scanning of all drivers, their helpers and the passengers before every trip
- No linens and blankets to be provided as a precaution
- 100% compliance with all government-issued guidelines, related to intercity bus travel
- If the government regulates social distancing within the bus, it is possible to configure on the coaches through Social Distancing Configuration on your Bitla System.
Now that safety is the new convenience, Operators who provide safer travel experience to the passengers are likely to get better online feedback, ratings and hence better bookings and returning customers.