All taxi and private hire companies and drivers are being asked by Transport for London (TfL) to put protective measures in place including ensuring face coverings are worn by drivers.
The London Mayor has also called for passengers to play their part in the national effort against the virus. Passengers using taxi and private hire services are being asked to travel outside of peak times and use a facial covering, carry a hand sanitiser and wash their hands before and after they travel. TfL hope this could help reduce the rate of infection.
Following the government’s announcement of an outline roadmap for the next period, TfL today set out its initial plan to support this and help Londoners who need to travel do so safely and sustainably. This will be supplemented over the coming days following advice on travel to be issued by government.
The plan will require significant changes to the way in which people travel in London.
TfL has been able to operate up to 60 per cent of Tube services and more than 80 per cent of bus services during the crisis to support essential journeys. This is while managing the impact of the virus on the transport workforce with staff ill, shielding or self-isolating.
Reflecting these national messages, TfL has today set out the following advice for Londoners:
If you can work from home, please continue to do so. Please avoid public transport wherever possible. Social distancing on public transport will not be possible unless we radically reduce the overall number of people travelling to work;
Do not expect to return to the transport network you were used to before. The number of people TfL can safely transport on buses and trains is severely constrained to enable social distancing;
If you need to travel, please reimagine how you do so. Walk and cycle if you can. New walking and cycling space is being created through the London Streetspace programme to further support this;
Please shop locally and use local leisure facilities to help keep demand on roads, buses and tubes down;
If using public transport, or taxi and private hire services, please travel outside of peak times and use a facial covering, carry a hand sanitizer and wash your hands before and after you travel. The latest Government advice is that, although face coverings are unlikely to prevent you from getting the virus, they could help prevent you from giving it to others. Face coverings are particularly important where 2m social distancing is hard to maintain;
Advice on maintaining social distancing will be given across the transport network and further measures to prevent crowding through new queuing systems will be in operation. This includes new social-distancing posters on display at bus stops, stations and in shelters, and two-metre floor markings on platforms at stations. Please respect each other’s space and try to maintain social distancing wherever possible;
Our hardworking staff are there to help: please act on their instructions and respect them at all times;
If you have to drive, please avoid peak times and obey speed limits and traffic laws at all times.
In keeping with plans on the national rail network, TfL is also working to safely and gradually build up service levels to where they were before the pandemic and will return the number of buses and trains running to as close to 100 per cent as soon as possible.
TfL is working closely with staff and the trade unions with the intention of, by 18 May, increasing service levels to around 85 per cent on the bus network, at least 70 per cent on the Tube and London Overground (in line with national rail services), 80 per cent on the DLR and a full service on TfL Rail.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Coronavirus has had a profound impact on public transport in London and will continue to do so long into the future. All public transport providers face huge challenges around social distancing - with the number of passengers TfL can safely accommodate on Tubes and buses reduced by over 85 per cent.
“We will all have to continue playing our part in reducing demand on services by working from home if we possibly can. Please avoid public transport wherever possible. I urge all Londoners to rethink the way they travel. Please avoid peak times, wear a non-medical covering over your nose and mouth and carry a hand sanitiser. By rapidly rolling out more space for walking and cycling through our London Streetspace plan we are enabling many more journeys to be made through these sustainable means which is crucial to our city’s recovery.
“I am pleased that all TfL frontline staff will be offered basic face masks from today. Along with the introduction of hand sanitiser points in the coming weeks, these additional measures will further protect our heroic staff and passengers at this critical period.”
Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “We need the help of all Londoners in this next period. Like everyone else, we want to see London and the country back moving and working again, safely and sustainably as soon as possible. However, we will not be returning to the transport network that existed before the virus. As the government has set out, the advice is that people should – for now – continue to work from home where they can and avoid public transport wherever possible.
“Our intention is to progressively build up service levels to as close to pre-pandemic levels as possible, but it is clear life simply won’t be swiftly returning to what it was before. The travel demand challenge facing us outstrips that faced during the 2012 games due to the national requirement to maintain 2 metres distance between passengers wherever possible. That may not always be possible of course given the design of London’s transport network.
“So every person, business, school, college and other institution in London has a vital role to play in this next period to keep everyone safe. We are also asking London to reimagine the way in which they travel, walking and cycling where possible and using the new dedicated facilities for this being created across London.
“Please use facial coverings for any travel on public transport or if using taxi and private hire services. We are providing them to our staff as well and will be installing hand sanitiser across the transport network. The Mayor’s Streetspace programme will also support greater walking and cycling whilst enabling social distancing on streets.”
Thanks to the cooperation of everyone across London, Tube travel has been reduced by 95 per cent and bus travel by 85 per cent – meaning low levels of travel on the Tube not seen in over 100 years.
However, with 80 per cent of TfL’s income coming from fares and commercial revenue, this has had a devastating impact on the organisation’s finances.
TfL remains in discussion with Government about support to ensure the transport network can play its full part in restarting London and the UK’s economy.