Daily Express


- By David Pilditch

THERE was a bizarre mix of chaos and calm yesterday as thousands of people returned to work after the easing of lockdown restrictio­ns.

In the capital, alarming images showed London Undergroun­d trains packed with passengers – making social distancing impossible.

And only a fraction of commuters wore masks or face coverings.

Meanwhile, some parts of the capital and other major cities, including Manchester, resembled ghost towns as millions continued to work from home or remained furloughed.

And some peak-time trains in major cities like Liverpool carried few passengers.

Many determined workers ditched public transport by heading to offices, cafes and depots on bicycles or on foot.

Roads and motorways were also busier yesterday.

Data from sat-nav firm TomTom showed road congestion had increased in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds compared with a week ago.


Some major fast food chains opened for delivery only, including 15 branches of McDonald’s in the south of England.

Last night unions warned that returning to work was “fraught with danger”.

London Tube services were at one point suspended after a passenger fell ill on the Victoria Line.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “This incident shows just how fraught with danger the Government’s return to work call is for our transport services in the midst of this pandemic.

“One incident and we are reduced to crisis management with reports that social distancing is impossible with Tube carriages rammed.”

Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “Photos are emerging all over social media of Tube trains and commuter services packed with people unable to socially distance in line with Government recommenda­tions.

“Our railway and Tube network… simply do not allow for social distancing with anywhere near the normal number of commuters. We do not have the capacity.”

A manager at Waterloo station said train services at the London hub rose to 45 per cent of normal capacity on Monday after running at 25 per cent throughout the earlier stages of the coronaviru­s lockdown.

Services are expected to rise again to 82 per cent from next Monday. Non-essential retail stores can open from June 1.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people who cannot work from home should be “actively encouraged” to return to their jobs.

A number of commuters spoke of their concerns about having to use public transport as many made their first journeys to work since the lockdown began on March 23.

Asked about the Government’s “back to work” message, Peter Osu, 45, who was returning to a building site for the first time since lockdown started, said people were sitting together and standing on his busy Tube train.

He said: “There was no two-metre spacing. I am nervous about going back because I have a family and they have been isolating from the

start. I feel like I am now putting them at risk.”

Teaching assistant Shannon Rose said: “I’d rather not be using public transport but I have to get to work.

“I work with kids with autism and they rely on me so I really can’t let them down.

“I have to travel all over London and this is the only way I can get there.”


A Transport for London spokesman said the number of passengers on the Tube was around 94 per cent less than the same time last year.

He said: “We are doing everything possible to return Tube and bus services to normal levels under extraordin­arily difficult circumstan­ces, with many staff still off sick, shielding or self-isolating.

“Public transport should be avoided wherever possible to help people who have no alternativ­e means of travel.

“If public transport is the only alternativ­e then please travel outside the busiest times, and allow twometre social distancing to be maintained where possible.”

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