London’s Tube network was packed during rush hour again today despite Boris Johnson’s historic decision to shut down Britain because of coronavirus.
Travellers in the capital were certainly not able to stick to social distancing on their Tube journey to work this morning, hours after the Prime Minister warned all but essential workers to stay at home.
Many people were nose-to-nose with people on the Tube, trains and buses despite being told to be two metres apart to avoid catching coronavirus, which has claimed 335 lives so far.
Sharing a horrifying picture, NHS sonographer Nicola Smith tweeted: ‘This is my tube this morning. I live in zone 4 and work in a zone 1 hospital. I love my job, but now I’m risking my health just on the journey in?! @SadiqKhan put the tube service back to normal so we can all spread out, or @BorisJohnson start policing who’s getting on. Help me!’.
Robert Tay, from Romford, took a picture of a packed London bus this morning and said: ‘@BorisJohnson @TfL @MayorofLondon @SadiqKhan Are you seriously telling me this is a bus full of “key workers”?’
Tube trains were packed again today despite the Government’s unprecedented lockdown that started just hours earlier to save lives and take pressure off the NHS
NHS sonographer Nicola Smith tweeted: ‘This is my tube this morning. I live in zone 4 and work in a zone 1 hospital. I love my job, but now I’m risking my health just on the journey in?!
The PM has said only key workers whose jobs are crucial to fighting coronavirus must go to work but ‘vague’ definitions and reduced train services has led to packed trains
Travellers on the Jubilee Line were in eachother’s faces and armpits despite being warned to stay two metres apart
Robert Tay, from Romford, took a picture of a packed London bus with people stood on the bottom and top decks this morning and said: ‘@BorisJohnson @TfL @MayorofLondon @SadiqKhan Are you seriously telling me this is a bus full of “key workers”?’
Who should still be going to work? London Mayor warns government’s rules are too LOOSE
London Mayor Sadiq Kahn has warned that the government risks undermining its coronavirus lockdown by allowing too many people to go to work.
Boris Johnson left some wriggle room in his announcement this evening, merely saying that people should only travel to work if it was ‘absolutely necessary’.
The government laid out who was counted as a ‘key worker’ and still permitted to send their children to schools last week.
But Mr Khan said the definition was too wide, and many would be confused about who was allowed to leave the house. He said the Welsh and Scottish First Ministers agreed with him.
‘The only people that should be leaving home are those that are essential to look after us,’ he told the BBC.
He added: ‘In my view the only construction workers that should be working are those that are needed for safety.’
Concerned passengers have shared the shocking images of carriages as cramped as in a normal commuter and called for ministers and London Mayor Sadiq Khan to act.
Platforms were also crowded and there were long queues, with similar scenes on many rail and bus services.
Transport bosses accused commuters of putting lives at risk by ignoring government advice against all but essential travel.
But passengers said the drastically reduced timetable was to blame, causing overcrowding that makes it more likely the virus will spread. Many said they had no choice but to travel as they had to work.
Fred Scott, a commuter on the Hammersmith and City line, wrote on Twitter: ‘On a 6.40 train from Upton Park going to Hammersmith. If one person on here has the virus then that will affect others, who will take that elsewhere. Lockdown needed.’
Fin Brennan, of the Aslef train drivers’ union, said: ‘This is endangering the health of the vital workers who have to use the system.
‘I’m being sent pictures of crush-loaded platforms at some Jubilee line platforms this morning. Drivers and other frontline staff are furious.’
One Tory MP told the Mail: ‘This is exactly the reason why we will have to take additional powers to force people to stay home… It exposes a complete contradiction in the Government’s approach. On the one hand, people are being told to avoid all travel, on the other hand they have no choice but to go into work as normal as their offices are still open.’
Labour transport spokesman Andy McDonald said the images were alarming, adding: ‘The Government must help keep transport workers and the public safe by urgently extending financial assistance to the self-employed and other workers so nobody risks losing their income by staying at home, and make it clear that workers in all non-key sectors of the economy must not travel to work.’
The Government has set out its key worker definition to battle coronavirus – but many believe it is too vague and is leaving many schools and parents confused about who is eligible
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would speak to Mr Khan about increasing the frequency of trains on the London Underground, where 40 stations have been closed by TfL and some main routes have trains running only once every 18 minutes.
Rail services which had been slashed by up to 50 per cent, with some axed, may be partly restored as ministers fear the reduced service is worsening the spread of the virus.
The Government had said the changes would discourage unnecessary journeys, allowing key workers to commute safely.
But in a U-turn yesterday, Mr Shapps said he was ‘concerned’ by the images of crowded trains and added: ‘We are working with train operators to introduce a small number of trains for key workers to have space to be safe.’
The Department for Transport is identifying those lines that need more trains. It said: ‘We are aware of some instances of overcrowding on certain train services this morning, and are working with operators regarding capacity on specific lines as needed to make sure there is space to be safe.’
C2C, which runs commuter services between Essex and London, is thought to have been identified as a line in need of increased capacity.
Passenger watchdog Transport Focus said: ‘The Government should continue to review what measures are needed to make sure social distancing on trains services is safe.’
The RMT union said: ‘We know that many people who are not traditionally employed, whether they are self-employed, on zero-hour contracts or in the gig economy, feel they have no choice but to go to work because of their financial situation. We therefore call on the Government to do far more to help these workers.’
Vernon Everitt of TfL said: ‘To save lives, everyone must follow the Government and Mayor’s instructions to stay at home and only travel if absolutely essential. Only critical workers should be using public transport, and no one else.’