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Boris Johnson vows to get transport moving ‘as quickly as possible’

The government set up a a titanic struggle with London’s transport unions today as it vowed to get public transport services increased ‘as quickly as possible’ – despite militant union bosses’ vow to fight them with strike action. 

The battle in the capital is being mirrored across the country as union leaders insist they will not increase services unless their demands over social distancing measures and driver conditions are met.

London’s RMT union today threatened to close the Tube entirely if its demands are not met – paralysing London and torpedoing hopes of an economic recovery – and said it is ‘considering its options’   

The battle over the future of transport is also playing out against a wider clash between the private sector – with just 13 per cent union membership – and the government as it tries to get back to work .

The public sector has 77 per cent union membership and has not seen its employees furloughed, while private sector workers take pay-cuts or face looming unemployment if their employers don’t get back to business. 

It comes as thousands of lower income Londoners are forced onto packed trains by the unions’ refusal to put on more trains while Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan insists that London is still locked down despite Mr Johnson’s exit plan.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) also advised its members not to work if they felt unsafe, amid fears over a surge in passengers on the railways and Tubes.

Transport for London has slashed Tube and bus services to 15 per cent and 12 per cent respectively compared with normal levels – and closed 40 stations. 

The Government guidance published this afternoon says: ‘The Government is working with public transport providers to bring services back towards pre-Covid-19 levels as quickly as possible.’

A very busy London Underground this morning with people all heading back to work at Canary Wharf station. The carriage was packed to capacity with very little social distancing or wearing of protective masks or gloves

Transport for London (TfL) asks passengers to use ‘face coverings’

TfL has today asked passengers to use face coverings as part of its plan to help London return to work safely.

In the guidance, released this morning, it said: Londoners are being asked to play their part in the national effort against the virus and will be asked to wear facial coverings whenever travelling on public transport or by taxi or private hire vehicle. This could help reduce the rate of infection. 

‘TfL front line staff, cleaners, and London’s bus drivers will also be offered face masks, starting from today, should they wish to use them.’ 

Public transport services have been decimated by a collapse in demand and staff shortages. Passengers are still being urged not to use trains and buses.

The strategy states: ‘When travelling everybody (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible.

‘If they can, people should instead choose to cycle, walk or drive, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact.’

The document goes on to state that social distancing guidance on public transport ‘must be followed rigorously’.

Transport operators ‘should follow appropriate guidance’ which will be published this week to ensure their services are ‘Covid-19 secure’.

A separate section of the briefing states that the Government is now ‘advising’ that people should wear face coverings on public transport.

It reads: ‘The Government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.’

The document states that these changes to policy will apply from Wednesday in England, but the guidance should be considered alongside specific requirements for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the Commons today on plans to ease the lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the Commons today on plans to ease the lockdown

Commuters have been critical of the crowded conditions on the tubes this morning

Commuters have been critical of the crowded conditions on the tubes this morning

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union, whose general secretary Mick Cash is pictured, advised its members not to work if they felt unsafe

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union, whose general secretary Mick Cash is pictured, advised its members not to work if they felt unsafe

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) advised its members not to work if they felt unsafe last night. 

But this morning they retweeted a tweet from BBC journalist Tom Edwards that said: ‘@RMTUnion says tube should be closed if a surge in passengers this week means social distancing can’t be implemented and passenger numbers can’t be controlled.’

And assistant secretary general Mike Lynch told Bloomberg that strike action is now a possibility if passenger numbers surge in the week.

He said:  ‘Maybe today won’t be the big upsurge but if companies get the message that they should encourage their workers to come back, they will be contacting people today and tomorrow and by the end of the week we could have a big upsurge in numbers.

‘We will review that and if necessary, we are still able to ballot people if they are in unsafe conditions, and strike action is a possibility. We would rather have discussions on a controlled system with a national plan, about getting the country back to work when its safe. In the absence of that we may have to consider our position.’

Thousands of people have heeded the Prime Minister’s advice last night and have gone back out on the road, or onto crowded tubes that still have no social distancing measures in place.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a statement said that the 'lockdown hasn't been lifted' and that you must not use transport for 'unnecessary journeys'

London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a statement said that the ‘lockdown hasn’t been lifted’ and that you must not use transport for ‘unnecessary journeys’

Commuters have reacted with outrage at the lack of safety measures in place, with exasperated tube users messaging Tfl on social media asking what are they going to do about the crowded carriages.

It comes as the Mayor of London said in a statement said that the ‘lockdown hasn’t been lifted’ and that you must not use transport for ‘unnecessary journeys’.

Boris Johnson is accused of putting the working class in danger by ordering them back to jobs while wealthier people stay at home

Boris Johnson has today been accused of putting Britain’s working classes in danger by ‘recklessly’ urging them to go back to work before easing the lockdown. 

Labour and the unions have suggested that workers should ignore the Prime Minister’s advice and stay at home or walk out of their workplace until the Government publishes full guidance for employers to make workplaces safe for staff to return. 

Trains and Tube services were busier today after Mr Johnson said those who can’t work at home should now go into work – most appeared to be in the construction industry heading to building sites in central London.

But office and banking districts such as the City of London and Canary Wharf were largely deserted today.

The Government is already facing bitter rows with transport unions about increasing the number of buses and trains towards normal levels and teaching unions about plans to reopen primary schools from June 1.

Mr Khan has failed to demand extra trains be put on by TfL bosses, despite the Prime Minister signalling in last night’s speech that millions of people should get back to work today.  

In his statement Mr Khan said: ‘I want to be clear as possible with Londoners – social distancing measures are still in place.

‘Lockdown hasn’t been lifted and we all still need to play our part in stopping the spread of Covid-19.

‘You must still stay at home as much as possible and keep a safe two-metre distance from other people at all times when you are out.’

It comes amid confusion over the government’s messaging this morning after a disastrous media round by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. 

He said insisted the government is not urging workers to return until Wednesday – when most were already on their way by road or public transport this morning. 

Commuters have already reported large traffic jams in major roads such as the M25, and in London, people have been pictured crammed onto tubes with no social distancing in place at all. 

The latest figures from TomTom, which measure traffic levels show that traffic into London is up 20 per cent compared to last week. 

Victoria station had its ‘busiest day’ today since the lockdown began, workers at the London station said.

One staffer said they were ‘concerned’ by the numbers they saw this morning after Boris Johnson’s speech yesterday.

He said: ‘The morning’s commute must have been the busiest we’ve had since the pandemic started.

‘I’m sure a lot of people took Boris’ speech yesterday as license to go back to work and get back to normal.

‘Not a lot of people were wearing masks or gloves. It concerns me as we might end up getting a second peak.

‘It’s supposed to be a road to recovery – I’m not so sure about that.’

A tube worker agreed, saying: ‘I was not expecting that many people to take the tube this morning.

‘It was nowhere near like it is normally. I’d say there was a 25% increase.

‘It quietened down after 10am, but it’s been slowly picking up again throughout the day.

‘They’re going to have to put on more trains so people can keep their distance from each other.’

The latest figures from TomTom, which measure traffic levels show that traffic into London is up 20 per cent compared to last week

The latest figures from TomTom, which measure traffic levels show that traffic into London is up 20 per cent compared to last week

The Mayor of London posted a statement online in reaction to the Prime Minister's announcement last night

The Mayor of London posted a statement online in reaction to the Prime Minister’s announcement last night

This morning commuters have reacted with concern about travelling in the capital as millions return to work after seven weeks in lockdown. 

Gerry Tiernan, who is head of production in the costume department at English National Ballet, said she is ‘worried’ about increased passenger numbers.

The 54-year-old, who was travelling to Canning Town from Brentford, told the PA news agency: ‘I am surprised at the amount of people who aren’t wearing masks at the moment.

‘It has been great travelling when no-one is around, but it is going to get busier now. 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. When there are more people, it is going to be terrible.’

Doctor James Wilson, 29, who works at West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth, said he is ‘very nervous’ about how his commute will change over the coming weeks.

Passengers at Canning Town on the busy platform in east London as Mr Johnson was accused of being vague

Passengers at Canning Town on the busy platform in east London as Mr Johnson was accused of being vague

The M25 in Kent was far busier than usual this morning after the Prime Minister said those who can't work from home should go to work today

The M25 in Kent was far busier than usual this morning after the Prime Minister said those who can’t work from home should go to work today

‘Based on what we have been seeing in London over the past few weeks about some people not following the rules, I am not sure they will follow the two-metre distancing rule when travelling,’ he said.

‘We have only just got past the peak (of the virus) and I think we need to see 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.’

Peter Osu, 45, said he was returning to work at a construction site for the first time since the lockdown started.

Speaking at Waterloo station, where every other bench is taped off to prevent people sitting next to each other, he said: ‘I am nervous about going back because I have a family and they have been isolating since the start. I feel like I am now putting them at risk.

‘People were sitting close together on the Jubilee line (Tube) and others were having to stand. There was no two-metre spacing. This is the first day, can you imagine what it’s going to look like by the end of the week?

‘It is not right at all. I listened to the Prime Minister yesterday and I thought it does not make sense.’ 

Public transport services will be increased ‘as quickly as possible’ as part of England’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Government document.

The ‘recovery strategy’ published on Monday sets out measures to cope with growing demand for travel ‘as more people return to work’.

It says: ‘This is why the Government is working with public transport providers to bring services back towards pre-Covid-19 levels as quickly as possible.’

Public transport services have been decimated by a collapse in demand and staff shortages.

The Jubilee Line into Central London was busy again this morning as more people started going to work

The Jubilee Line into Central London was busy again this morning as more people started going to work 

Passengers are still being urged not to use trains and buses.

The strategy states: ‘When travelling everybody (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible.

‘If they can, people should instead choose to cycle, walk or drive, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact.’

The document goes on to state that social distancing guidance on public transport ‘must be followed rigorously’.

Transport operators ‘should follow appropriate guidance’ which will be published this week to ensure their services are ‘Covid-19 secure’. 

Union leaders have attacked the Prime Minister’s speech about easing the lockdown, accusing him of sending mixed messages which could have ‘lethal’ consequences.  

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) advised its members not to work if they felt unsafe.

It said the Government was shifting away from the stay at home message, which would unleash a surge in passengers breaching social- distancing measures with ‘potentially lethal consequences’ for staff and the public. 

The statement said: ‘Given the confusion and mixed messaging generated by the government in recent days, RMT has no confidence in the ability of the government to manage lockdown or its easing.

‘To be clear no agreement has been made to change any working practices or social distancing arrangements from tomorrow.

‘Therefore if two metre social distancing cannot be maintained we consider it to be unsafe and members have the legal right to use the worksafe process. On LUL they have the legal right to use the refusal to work policy.

‘RMT will fully back any member who uses this process to ensure their safety.’  

Labour and unions declare coronavirus class war: Boris Johnson is accused of putting the working class in danger by ordering them back to jobs while wealthier people stay at home

by Martin Robinson for MailOnline 

Boris Johnson has today been accused of putting Britain’s working classes in danger by ‘recklessly’ urging them to go back to work before easing the lockdown. 

Labour and the unions have suggested that workers should ignore the Prime Minister’s advice and stay at home or walk out of their workplace until the Government publishes full guidance for employers to make workplaces safe for staff to return.

It sets the scene for a looming clash between the private sector – with just 20 per cent union membership – as it tries to get back to work and the public sector which has 60 per cent union membership and which has not seen its employees furloughed, take pay-cuts or face looming unemployment if their employers don’t get back to business. 

Builders were back on site today and trying to maintain social distancing as the PM told them to go back to work

Builders were back on site today and trying to maintain social distancing as the PM told them to go back to work

But at the heart of the City of London, there wasn't a person to be seen next to the Bank of England as white collar workers were able to stay at home

But at the heart of the City of London, there wasn’t a person to be seen next to the Bank of England as white collar workers were able to stay at home

Trains and Tube services were busier today after Mr Johnson said those who can’t work at home should now go into work – most appeared to be in the construction industry heading to building sites in central London.

But office and banking districts such as the City of London and Canary Wharf were largely deserted today.

The Government is already facing bitter rows with transport unions about increasing the number of buses and trains towards normal levels and teaching unions about plans to reopen primary schools from June 1.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: ‘People cannot get to work safely unless there is safe transport for them to use. This has not been thought through and the failure to do so places working people in danger.’

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant said: ‘It was crazy for the PM to make his statement on a Sunday evening and expect people to go to work 12 hours later without using public transport. Now we have utter confusion and mixed messages.

The Tube was packed with workers today with Labour claiming that the Government is acting recklessly

The Tube was packed with workers today with Labour claiming that the Government is acting recklessly

A man wearing a protective face mask walks along London Bridge this morning - as confusion reigns over the PM's statement

A man wearing a protective face mask walks along London Bridge this morning – as confusion reigns over the PM’s statement

‘It’s difficult not to conclude that working class workers are expected to go to work whilst middle class workers work from home. But the ‘new normal’ can’t just be a repeat of the old divide. Surely?’. 

Lockdown confusion reigned today as Dominic Raab insisted the government is not urging workers to return until Wednesday – despite Boris Johnson suggesting otherwise last night and millions of people taking to roads and rail.

The PM sparked a furious backlash in his crucial TV address to the nation by insisting that he was urging everyone who cannot work from home to go back to their jobs this week. Labour and unions raged that millions of people were being told to resume their duties with just 12 hours’ notice and no health and safety in place to protect from coronavirus.

In a letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, shadow business secretary Ed Miliband and shadow employment rights minister Andy McDonald said they were ‘deeply concerned’ about the recommendation that staff unable to work from home should go back to work.

Labour MP Chris Bryant has suggested that working class workers are being sent to work when the middle classes can stay safely at home

Labour MP Chris Bryant has suggested that working class workers are being sent to work when the middle classes can stay safely at home

They said: ‘Every worker deserves to work without fear. Without clear rules in place for workplaces, this cannot happen. Ordering a return to work in manufacturing and construction with 12 hours’ notice and no official guidance on how workers can keep safe is irresponsible and wrong.’

They added: ‘The Prime Minister said tonight he wanted workers to avoid public transport and use cars, bicycles or walk to work but did not explain how. What if none of those are viable options?’  

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government’s latest strategy is not based on political consensus.

Speaking to Sky News, Sir Keir said: ‘What I really wanted, I pushed them on this last week, I said ‘build a consensus around the plan before you deliver the plan’ that’s been delivered this evening.

‘Because I think the public are very scared and anxious about what comes next. They want reassurance.

‘And if they can see political parties, employers, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland all broadly on the same page – that helps with reassurance and confidence.

‘But I’m afraid we’ve arrived tonight without that.

Unions dismiss Boris’s plan to get primary schools to reopen from June 1 

Boris Johnson has revealed schools will start to reopen from June 1 ‘at the earliest’ as he outlined his plan to lift the coronavirus lockdown last night – though teaching unions immediately slammed the proposal as ‘reckless’.

The PM said pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will be the first to go back from the start of next month as part of a staged process. 

Nurseries would also be covered in the initial phase and the hope is that all primary school children would return to class by the summer.

Secondary school students who have exams next year will be given time with teachers before the summer holidays but most will not be back until September.  

The Prime Minister’s plan also caused alarm in the country’s largest teaching union, with its leader branding it ‘reckless’.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, also called on children to be disinfected at the school gates. 

She said: ‘In China, children stand outside the school gates and are sprayed front and back with disinfectant, their shoes are sprayed, they wash their hands with sanitiser, they must take off their mask and replace it with a new one, and their temperature is taken remotely.’

She told The Times similar measures should be introduced in Britain, adding: ‘They’re doing that in South Korea and they have a minuscule number of new cases.’

Wales has flatly dismissed the PM’s proposals and Nicola Sturgeon has suggested there is little prospect of them returning in Scotland until August. 

‘Now, you know, that’s a duty them, on all of us, to see whether we can provide that going forward. But that basic consensus that I was arguing for, I don’t think is there tonight.’

Sir Keir Starmer also told Sky News that the Labour Party had pushed the Government to ‘speed up’ its response to the pandemic.

He added: ‘We pushed the Government on lockdown, we pushed them on testing, we pushed them on PPE.

‘Now we pushed and challenged with the purpose, which was to try to get them to speed up.

‘And I said that under my leadership we’re not out to score party political points. So it was to get them to speed up and to ramp up.’

The general secretary of the teachers’ union said the profession has ‘very serious concerns’ about children returning to school on June 1.

Patrick Roach, of NASUWT, told BBC Breakfast: ‘The fact of the matter is the Government has announced a date but hasn’t come forward with a plan about how schools will ensure that they’re safe for pupils and safe for staff to be in from June 1.

‘And the Prime Minister said that it would be madness to risk a second spike in relation to transmission of the virus. Well the profession has got very serious concerns about that announcement of June 1, whether indeed it is possible to achieve it, but also how to achieve that in a way which is safe for pupils and staff.’

He said there is strong evidence schools are lacking personal protective equipment (PPE), adding: ‘If you’re dealing with five and six-year-olds and 11-year-olds, how to ensure stringent social distancing in that context is a big challenge and Government simply haven’t answered that challenge.

‘And finally, just in terms of risk assessments, parents will want to know that schools are going to be hygienic, they’re going to be safe for their children to be in. And we still don’t have any clear standards about what safe cleaning routines would be like within a school context and we need to have that.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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