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Back to work day: Commuters pack onto Tube and trains

by Milagros Moberg (2020-06-02)

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Fruits dipped in chocolateCars and taxis are set to be banned from some of the capital's busiest roads to make way for cyclists and pedestrians despite increasing traffic and social distancing becoming a 'joke' on public transport as millions returned to work today.

The City of London Corporation claims closing major routes through the financial district will be 'pivotal' to keeping people safe during the pandemic despite the Government's advice being clear that: 'You are very unlikely to be infected if you walk past another person in the street'.

Transport chiefs want to impose 12 or 24-hour closures for cars and divert buses off its main routes including Cannon Street, Poultry, Lombard Street, Old Broad Street and Threadneedle Street, home to the Bank of England.

Without the vehicles, pavements will be widened, new cycle lanes created and extra space for queuing outside shops and cafés, with the plan expected to be approved by the Square Mile's planning committee tomorrow as the City of London's 550,000 workers start returning to offices as the lockdown eases.

But critics have slammed the proposals saying the closures will make things worse for commuters who must travel to work in London, especially when Boris Johnson has suggested that people drive as well as walk or cycle to work. Traffic in the capital is up two per cent compared to a week ago, according to TomTom, and increasing with each week as the nationwide travel ban ends. 

But defending the plan Catherine McGuinness, policy chief for the Corporation of London, said: 'Even a small increase in the number of people using cars, taxis and private hire vehicles to commute is likely to lead to an unacceptable level of congestion on central London's street network'.

Workers were packed like sardines on trains and buses as millions across the country went back to work for the first time after Boris Johnson eased the lockdown with Tube staff calling conditions 'dangerous' and a 'complete shambles'. 

London Bridge station has seen a spike of 25 percent more people commuting in the past week, MailOnline understands. 

Transport for London (TfL) said the number of passengers using the Tube between 4am and 10am on Wednesday was up by 7.3% compared with the same period last week 

The manager of London Waterloo, Britain's busiest railway station, said today that 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, he said. 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been urged to get a grip and increase services immediately to ease the severe overcrowding, which has happened without a massive surge in passengers. Around 230,000 journeys are expected on the Tube today - compared with 4million pre-lockdown - up just 8 per cent in the past week.   

A new plan to ban cars from some of the City of London's busiest roads to make way for more bikes and walkers has been published despite increasingly dangerous conditions on public transport because of a lack of trains and buses

This slide shows how transport use, especially road traffic is slowly growing. Traffic this week in London is 4% up on last week

It was standing room only on this Underground train as the Mayor of London was urged to get a grip and the Government faced a battle with unions, who have threatened to shut down the network

Passengers were nose-to-nose on the Victoria Line this morning after services were suspended when a customer fell ill on a rush hour train

Serious questions are being raised about public safety after footage of crammed buses and Tubes emerged today when people were urged to go back to work

Leytonstone station in east London was packed with Tube travellers even before 7am as people had to wait up to 20 minutes for trains in the capital

Workers are clearly without access to masks despite being asked to use them when going on the Tube 

Two women wearing PPE masks and protective suits walk through a largely deserted Piccadilly Circus this afternoon

Traffic was also very heavy on the approach to the Blackwall Tunnel - the main route across the Thames between south and east London - as more people, especially construction workers and tradesmen, headed back to work to pay the bills.

There was also congestion on the A40 near Uxbridge as people headed into London this morning






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The Prime Minister has said that anyone who cannot work from home should attempt to return to their workplace - but social media videos and images this morning made it crystal clear that public transport has not been ramped up enough to help them travel safely. 

Mr Johnson piled more pressure on Sadiq Khan during PMQs today as he called on Transport for London, run by the Mayor, to scale up tube services immediately and implement 'proper marshalling' at stations so that people can travel safely.

Reacting to the social distancing chaos, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps even admitted he wouldn't go on a packed train or bus. Mr Khan tweeted minutes later that the 'lockdown has not been lifted', again urging people to 'stay at home as much as possible' and wear a face mask if they have to travel. 

Passengers, the majority not wearing masks, were nose-to-nose on the Victoria Line in London this morning after services were suspended when a customer fell ill on a rush hour train. 'Social distancing during the peak was a joke. During the suspension our carriages were heaving - it will get worse,' said one worker, adding it was a 'complete shambles'.  Another Tube driver said the situation was risking thousands of lives, adding: 'Sorry doesn't begin to cut it. Even before passenger collapsed on a train the social distancing during the peak was a joke. During the suspension, our carriages were heaving.. it will get worse'.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, again threatened a walkout as early as this afternoon, and 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. We are monitoring the situation across services this morning and will discuss any appropriate action with our local reps.'

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he wouldn't get on a packed bus and urged people to make alternative arrangements

Commuters faced waits of up to 20 minutes on Tube lines when the gaps between services during rush hour should be three to five minutes as unions threatened to shut down the network if it is overwhelmed today.

Congestion was also very heavy on the approach to the Blackwall Tunnel - the main route across the Thames between south and east London - and on the A40 in west London as more people, especially construction workers and tradesmen, headed back to work to pay the bills. 

Blogger Jay Bits took to Twitter this morning to share footage of crowds of people getting off a bus in east London this morning and told MailOnline the capital's mayor and Boris Johnson had to 'sort this' because lives are at risk.

He said: 'You lot claim to care about the public I just watched and 86 bus at Stratford bus station pull in and not one person Is social distancing because there's to many people on buses either put out more buses at peak times or just go back to lockdown'. 

There is growing anger that those being asked to work and help the economy recover are being put in danger. Sadiq Khan's Transport for London has also asked passengers to wear some form of face mask when using public transport in the capital but there were very few in sight this morning as people as PPE remains scarce and expensive.  Commuters have been told to walk the first or last mile of their journey to limit contact with other passengers, face away from each other on carriages and avoid eating food and drink.

Mr Khan has claimed that Transport for London needs four weeks to prepare for lockdown easing - because it has furloughed 7,000 staff and up to a third of workers have been in self-isolation through the crisis. The RMT Union said this morning that the earliest they could get services back to 70 per cent is next Monday.

The Prime Minister is trying to get people back to work on the day it was revealed that the UK economy contracted by two per cent in the first quarter of 2020 after plunging 5.8 per cent in March as the coronavirus crisis took hold, the Office for National Statistics has said. 

As people returned to work today, it also emerged:

Golfers and tennis fans are back out playing and garden centres opened as lockdown was lightly eased;  

Holiday firms are 'bullying' customers into handing over thousands of pounds for trips that look set to be cancelled due to coronavirus lockdown - as Matt Hancock warns trips abroad will not be possible this year 

GDP fell by 5.8% in March as the coronavirus dealt a hammer blow to the economy - and analysts expect worse to come

Leaked Treasury plans reveal Britons face pay freezes and tax rises to cover £300bn bill for coronavirus;

The property market will reopen today to help 450,000 people complete their moves; 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged people to 'look for alternatives' while travelling to work, as he said the transport system can only take a 10th of the usual numbers of commuters before the coronavirus two-metre social distancing rule would be breached.

Asked if he would get on a busy bus or Tube, Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast: 'People should try to avoid that.

'The picture overall, there are some stations like Canning Town I am particularly conscious of, some other places on the District and Jubilee Line which are a concern, but mostly on the network overall people are heeding that advice. The appeal goes out again, please look for alternative means of transport.'

Mr Shapps said a line has to be drawn 'in order to gradually release things', when asked why people can go to property viewings but not see family members outside of their household.

'We must understand, we have done so well in the last eight weeks we cannot throw that all away, and so these are baby steps,' he told BBC Breakfast.

'If someone visits a home (for sale), that's likely to be a one-off, if you are starting to visit your family again, that's likely to be many more times.

'Somewhere there has to be a line drawn where we say this is OK but this isn't, in order to gradually release things'. 

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said pubic should be encouraged to head back to work if they can't work from home

It appears around 50 per cent of people are choosing to cover their faces - despite the Government and TfL advice that they should

People file off the DLR at Lewisham Station in south-east London this morning on Day 1 of the official return to work

Paul Miller cycled to work in Ealing, west London today, but the Government needs many more people to do it to avoid carnage on the Tube 

Passengers wear face masks in the underpass at Clapham Junction station in London, after the announcement of plans to bring the country out of lockdown

Roads around Canary Wharf were also busier this morning as more and more people tried to get working again

Traffic in the capital is up two per cent compared to a week ago, according to TomTom, but it appears today is not as busy as Monday

Many workers revealed that they now plan to either drive or cycle to work and would not use public transport.

Alex Shawm, 35 was driving to his car polishing business in Park Royal, West London from his home in Ealing.

He said: 'It's not very far but I don't want to use public transport. I returned to work more than a week ago and have been using my car. I've noticed that over the past few days the roads have got a lot busier. I'd say there's been a 30% increase in traffic.

'It just doesn't make sense to use public transport but I'm lucky because my work is not very far and I can easily avoid it. But it's not that easy who have much longer journeys to worker.'

Paul Miller, 51 who runs an equipment hire business revealed that he was now cycling from his home in Ealing to his office in Shepherds Bush, a journey of around 5 miles.

He said: 'I'm going to completely avoid public transport. It's just too risky and the buses and Tubes are just going to get busier as time goes on.

'When the weather's nice, it's lovely cycling but I don't think it'll be as much fun when it's wet and cold so then I'll use my car. Coronavirus is not going to go away anytime soon and I'm not prepared to put my life in danger by using public transport.'

A trickle of workers returned to work from south-east London this morning but most stayed away from using public transport.

Lewisham station, which is usually bustling with thousands heading into the City of London and Canary Wharf, was practically deserted with only a fraction of travelers using the Docklands Light Railway [DLR].

Among those journeying to work were a Magistrates court administrator, a merchant banker, a coffee-shop worker, a special needs teaching assistant and a building site worker.

More than half of travelers were wearing face masks and passengers sat far apart from each other in the train carriages.

Magistrates Court administrator Natalie told MailOnline: 'This is my first day back to work and I am nervous about using public transport but this is the only way I can get to work in east London.

'I am staying away from other people but I am worried that someone will stand too close to me or cough in my face.'

Jill, who works in a merchant bank in Canary Wharf said she was not concerned.

'I've been working all the way through,' she told MailOnline. 'I didn't want to work from home so I've been going into the office. I'm one of the few people going in. and I'm not worried about going on public transport as there is hardly anyone on the DLR.'

Coffee-shop worker Ines was wearing a homemade mask.

She said: 'I'm working in Canary Wharf but it is takeaway only. I wear my mask all day. I made it myself.'

Builder Danusz says he has been able to maintain social distancing at work.

He said: 'I am working at a building site in Canary Wharf. We started back to work on Monday. We are all keeping our distance from each other at work - 2 metres away. So I am not worried. I wear a mask on the DLR.'

Teaching assistant Shannon Rose said she was worried about using public transport but told how children depended on her.

She said: 'I'd rather not be using public transport but I have to get to work. I'm work with kids with autism and they rely on me so I can't let them down.

'I have to travel all over London and this is the only way I can get there. If you beloved this post and you would like to acquire additional data pertaining to or if you are happy going to a public pool kindly go to the web page. '

Meanwhile announcements from Transport for London urging people to use public transport only for essential journeys was playing out across the station concourse.

Officers from British Transport Police patrol the platform.

The roads outside the station - usually packed with traffic heading into central London - were also empty.

The dozens of cars, vans and lorries that usually build up only the A20 trunk road were conspicuous by their absence.

The legions of cyclists, who use this major link to London, were also not on show this morning.

Golfers putt on the 9th green at Allerton Manor golf course in Liverpool after the lifting of lockdown restrictions on some leisure activities

Members of the public queue outside prior to the reopening of the Capital Gardens' Sherfield on Loddon Garden Centre near Basingstoke, Hampshire, where plants were used to sort social distancing

A man in a suit and tie wears a face mask in the first day of easing the lockdown rules in London

Staff members organise a delivery at a branch of McDonald's at Boreham, near Chelmsford in Essex, which one of 15 of the restaurant chain's locations which are reopening for delivery meals

Gemma Collins was left lost for words after she received a video of a people flouting social distancing rules in a busy London tube station yesterday,.

The TOWIE star, 39, shared a clip of Holborn station on Twitter and expressed her confusion by writing: 'Huh. Just been sent this of holborn station today.'

The clip shows Londoners during rush hour ignoring Prime Minister Boris Johnson's advice to keep a two metre distance from each other.

Britons face pay freezes and tax rises to cover £300bn bill for coronavirus, leaked Treasury plans reveal as it emerges that one in three firms may NEVER reopen 

England has eased the coronavirus lockdown and its people are now able to return to work, sunbathe, move home and meet one friend or family member in social bubbles.

Boris Johnson announced changes to the guidelines on Sunday, seven weeks after imposing the draconian measures on March 23.

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