Boris Johnson calls for 'proper marshalling' at tube stations following 'packed' commute

13 May 2020, 08:50

"Packed" tubes have been reported
"Packed" tubes have been reported. Picture: Getty

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Prime Minister today called for "proper marshalling" at Tube stations after pictures emerged of packed services when he told people to go back to work.

Commuters said services today were "absolutely rammed", with many claiming "social distancing is not possible" on transport, particularly on the Tube and buses in London.

Speaking during Prime Minister's questions today, Boris Johnson said he wants to see "proper marshalling" at stations to prevent crowding on trains.

He told the Commons: "I don't want to see crowding on mass public transport in our capital or anywhere else and we're working very actively with TFL to ensure that what we do is we have more capacity, we discourage people from going to work during the peak and that the operators, in particular TFL, lay on particularly more Tube trains when those are necessary throughout the day.

"And a huge amount of work is being done and we also want to see proper marshalling at stations to prevent crowding of trains."

It comes as Transport for London said the number of passengers using the London Underground on Wednesday from the start of service to 6am was up by 8.7% compared with the same period last week.

However, Downing Street said there had been no "significant" increase in public transport use in London in response to the lockdown easing.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "TfL is not reporting significant increases on the London network this morning compared to the last few days."

Asked why the lockdown in England was being eased before the test, track and trace programme was up and running, the spokesman said the medical and scientific advice was that it was "safe to do so".

"If that weren't the case, we wouldn't have followed this course," the spokesman said.

Boris Johnson: The easing of the lockdown is conditional

It follows the announcement from the prime minister on Sunday that the public should still work from home where possible, but people whose jobs cannot be done from home should go back to work.

On Tuesday, travellers were told by the Department for Transport to keep two metres apart from others "wherever possible", wear a face covering, use contactless payment and avoid rush-hour, according to government guidance.

The guidance also "sets out the steps operators should take to provide safe workplaces and services for their staff and passengers across all modes of private and public transport"

Those who will be returning to work have also been told to avoid public transport wherever possible by "walking, cycling or driving to work". People are also being told to avoid rush hour and employers should be prepared to change work times to make this possible.

All transport operators have been told to ensure that stations and services are regularly cleaned and routes must be kept clear to avoid crowding.

They are also responsible for making clear to passengers how to stay 2 metres apart where possible in stations, airports and ports.

People are also advised to wear face masks when travelling.

Grant Shapps spoke to LBC
Grant Shapps spoke to LBC. Picture: PA

Speaking on LBC, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "I sent out to all transport operators very clear guidance about what they need to do and consider, but there are so many different types of transport in this country that we need the transport operators to look at their individual situation and decide.

It is about the right measures being taken in the right circumstances."

When asked if he has the power to demand travel companies enact guidelines, Mr Shapps said: "Public Health England and the Health and Safety executive does have powers."

Nick Ferrari also questioned Mr Shapps on government plans to remove or cover train seats to enforce social distancing.

The Transport Secretary replied: "This will depend on individual operators and the design of their carriages but actually the first thing we are doing, as removing all the train seats from all public transport currently would be rather difficult, whilst keeping it running, we are asking people to avoid using public transport.

"It is vital that people know that even 100 per cent of the service was running we could only fit one in ten of the usual passenger amount. If you can cycle or walk, do it.

"To all employers I ask please please help your employees by staggering work times and helping them to work from home," he pleaded.

Safety measures have been put in place
Safety measures have been put in place. Picture: PA

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LBC correspondent Rachael Venables spent the morning at Waterloo East station in Central London

She told LBC: "It's like someone turned the taps on, passengers have really started to pile in now.

"Trains have been arriving with dozens of passengers rushing off and lining up at the ticket barriers.

One passenger she spoke to said: "I'm going to London Bridge and it's not that bad but it's the amount of people walking out at you as you come into Waterloo East. There's loads of people, they're not socially distancing, people just push past you on escalators.

"It's a bit worrying. I'll be on the train for an hour and a half, and it's always a packed commuter train.

Another told her: "Yeah there's a definite difference. I'm not too worried about it, but on the tube it gets a bit packed.

"In the last few days there seems to have been a few more people on the train but it's still pretty empty on the train I come on."

When asked by Nick Ferrari about the number of people wearing masks, Rachael said: "I'm standing up on the balcony now and I cannot see a single person with a face covering or mask. One man, I can see one man with a face covering."

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Commuters have also taken to social media to express their concerns over people returning to work this morning.

An angry commuter posted photos on packed tube trains and said there is "no social distancing taking place".

One person said: "Every single person travelling to work today on the London Underground is risking their own lives and the lives of their families. Social distancing is not possible on the tube. And many people are not wearing a face mask, which just increases the risk. This is absolute madness!"

"60 people in my tube car by the time it got to central London this morning.

“Social distancing” isn’t possible!" commented another.

One commuter, who had chosen to walk to work, posted a picture of their normal bus and wrote: "Here's my usual 55 bus (I'm walking) absolutely rammed full of people."

"The Tube in London 1 day after they reopened," said another Twitter user, who posted an image of his busy morning tube carriage.

A similar photo was posted with the caption: "No chance on the Jubilee line this morning."

"No social distancing going on whatsoever on the central line this morning ..... sardines as far as I'm concerned .... 99% sure there were some people who weren’t construction worker’s on here as well," posted a London commuter.

Another worker reported: "TFL having to stop commuters at the barrier as the trains are too busy to practice social distancing."

In Birmingham, a key worker commuter reported: "Think you need to step up and either limit passengers or put more frequent buses on! My 7am bus this morning is like a covid party bus, downstairs is packed, no distancing being put in place. I work at the hospital and the past two days I’ve never felt so unsafe!"