Social distancing on buses in England will end next week as ministers give operators the green light to double the number of passengers allowed on each service.
Every forward facing seat will be available for passengers from Monday, meaning strangers will sit next to one another for the first time since the pandemic hit.
In London this means bus capacity will double to 60 passengers.
The move, drawn up by the bus industry and signed off by the Department for Transport, comes as other coronavirus restrictions are eased.
From May 17, groups of up to six people will be able to meet indoors. Meanwhile, pubs and restaurants will also be able to welcome customers inside.
Until now bus operators have blocked off one in every two front-facing seats to combat the spread of coronavirus. Rear-facing seats will remain unavailable.
The relaxation of rules will come as a relief to some of Britain’s biggest bus operators, which have struggled to turn a profit during the pandemic as taxpayer subsidies only cover their costs.
A spokesman for the Confederation of Passenger Transport said: “As restrictions ease and more people begin to move around places, public transport will be busier than we have seen during the pandemic.
“On busy routes at busy times this means it may not always be possible to socially distance and some passengers may need to sit next to each other. Where possible we are encouraging passengers to plan their journey in advance and travel off peak if they can.”
Transport for London plans to run 8,000 buses a day. Andy Byford, the transport commissioner, said: “We’re ensuring public transport is cleaner than ever with staff on hand to offer advice, assist and help keep everyone safe. And we’re advising customers to travel at the quieter times if they can to spread demand across the day.”