What social distancing? Commuter crowds pile on to trains on first day
SAFETY regimes to stop the spread of coronavirus collapsed yesterday as commuters crammed on trains for the first day back.
Standing room only on some London underground trains made social distancing rules impossible.
Large crowds were pictured on platforms waiting for trains before passengers piled on.
As signs of normal life returned with garden centres and civic amenity tips reopening, facemasks were in evidence. But the recommended protection to stop wearers spreading the killer disease was scant among commuters.
Meanwhile rush hour traffic rose in the capital as thousands drove to work. On Sunday night Boris Johnson tried to revive the economy by easing restrictions following a drop in the death rate.
He said those who can should continue to work from home but if that is not possible they should return to the workplace.
But he added: “We want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible, because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.”
He urged workers to commute by car, walking or bicycle. But yesterday showed that for many his message is impossible to follow.
Compounding the risk of overcrowding is the fact that the public transport network is running at greatly reduced capacity.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that if the tube and bus networks were running normally they would still only be able to carry 15 per cent of their normal 10 million passengers a day due to social distancing requirements.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Even if we were to run at 100 per cent on the Tube and buses – and we’re running 85-95 per cent of our buses and 60-65 per cent of the Tube in rush hour – it is not possible to adhere to social distancing rules unless there’s about 15 per cent of people using public transport.
“So the key message from the
Prime Minister and from me today is do not use public transport. Public transport is for essential workers, particularly in rush hour.”
The worst congestion was on London Underground from where commuters posted pictures of crowded platforms and carriages.
One passenger tweeted: “Tube trains in London absolutely jampacked. Social distancing is being completely ignored.”
But the problems facing commutin
ers who are more than a bicycle ride from work are not confined to the capital.
One tweeter said: “When I was working in Bradford people were commuting daily from Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Barnsley, Doncaster. Just not possible.” Semi-retired doctor
Peter Harrison questioned how guidelines on public transport could be observed. He tweeted: “How is social distancing possible in a plane or train with air conditioning and no way to open windows.” Commuters admitted to being nervous about safety. Gerry Tiernan, 54, who works the costume department at English National Ballet, said: “I am surprised at the amount of people who aren’t wearing masks.
“It’s going to be pure luck as to whether you get it (Covid-19) or not. There are signs on the Tube saying ‘Keep two metres apart’ but no-one is doing it.”
Doctor James Wilson, 29, who works at West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth, is very nervous about how his commute will change.
He said: “We have only just got past the peak of the virus and we need a longer period of things being sustained at this level. If we stop social distancing, we are going to see it back in three weeks.”
The Rail Delivery Group said major national rail stations were quiet yesterday with the network at about half its normal capacity.
Consultancy Teneo said demand for services is nearly double that available and will rise. Spokesman Matt Lovering said: “The Prime Minister has said people should avoid transport if possible.
“However, that is not a plan to reopen the country, it’s simply an admission that the Government has not worked out how to make public transport safe.”
Garden centre bosses have provided the necessary PPE for workers, while stricter and more frequent cleaning routines will take place. Cars jammed bumper to bumper were spotted outside household recycling centres.