Crowds flee London on eve of capital entering Tier 4 restrictions

19 December 2020, 22:06 | Updated: 20 December 2020, 07:02

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Crowds were spotted fleeing London last night before the capital was plunged into strict Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions.

Passengers faced packed train carriages out of the city as many attempted to flee following Boris Johnson's announcement of tougher Covid measures for London and the South East.

People were told that social distancing "will not be possible" due to the volume of travellers on board, and those that felt "uncomfortable" were advised not stay on the train.

It comes after the prime minister confirmed that large parts of eastern and South East England, including the capital, would be placed into Tier 4 from Sunday morning.

New Tier 4 measures - which is the highest possible level in England - effectively return residents to the rules in place during the two national lockdowns.

Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference at 4pm on Saturday that the rules would come into effect at midnight.

Read more: London and SE enter Tier 4 and told to stay home over Christmas

Explained: What is the new variant and are there different symptoms?

St Pancras International train station was packed on Saturday evening
St Pancras International train station was packed on Saturday evening. Picture: Twitter: Sean Spooner

By 7pm on Saturday evening, those looking online for trains from London stations, such as Euston, Kings Cross and Paddington, were unable to make bookings due to a lack of availability.

Footage posted online and obtained by LBC showed large crowds at St Pancras station waiting to board trains to Leeds.

Harriet Clugston said that people on board the trains had attempted to secure space for themselves, but that there was not enough room to do so.

"As expected, train is crammed," she wrote on Twitter.

"Announcement on Tannoy says social distancing 'will not be possible' due to volume and to get off if you are not comfortable with that.

"People have tried to secure social distance by placing (bags) on seats but being asked to remove them by other passengers as the train is so full."

Read more: 'Christmas bubbles' only allowed on Xmas Day, PM announces

Explained: What is Tier 4 and which areas are going into toughest measures?

Another woman, who did not wish to be named, said she and her partner had made the "split decision" to take their young son to her parents' home on the coast.

"We just made the decision to leave based on the fact that my parents said come, and we couldn't bear the thought of no fresh air and a toddler going rogue round a small flat for the foreseeable," she said.

"We also really just felt we wanted to get the baby somewhere a bit safer with a garden, though we know a lot of people won't have that luxury.

She added: "The grandparents are just desperately happy they'll see their grandson.

"We obviously worry about taking something down to them, but they seem happy to take the risk."

Read more: Scotland announces travel ban with rest of UK

Read more: Christmas Day mixing in Wales despite lockdown from tonight

Izzy, 22, from Bristol, said that she wanted "the security of being home for Christmas" and that her parents had come to collect her before the restrictions came into effect.

"I have a slight nervousness that they might block the roads or something stopping me going home," she said.

"I'm moving out of my flat so I need my dad to come and get me and he feels more comfortable doing it before Tier 4 kicks in."

Among the announcements made on Saturday was the news that household mixing in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 in England would only be allowed on Christmas Day, instead of the planned five-day window of 23-27 December.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a travel ban with the rest of the UK. She also confirmed Christmas bubbles would be confined to 25 December before Scotland enters a strict lockdown on Boxing Day.

Wales will also allow household mixing on Christmas Day - a maximum of two - but will enter a Level 4 lockdown from midnight on Saturday.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify