Social distancing on public transport in Wales means demand must be 'managed'

13 May 2020, 15:45

Workers staff the phone lines at the Public Health Wales call centre in Cardiff
Workers staff the phone lines at the Public Health Wales call centre in Cardiff. Picture: PA

By Steve Francis

The Welsh government is taking steps to alter how its public transport network operates to allow people to return safely to work during the coronavirus crisis.

Discussions are ongoing on how to tackle the situation, with the guidance for Wales currently stating that people should not avoid public transport.

Welsh Economy Minister Ken Skates said one in five people do not own a car and desperately need to access public transport to get to work.

Speaking at the daily Coronavirus briefing today, he said when the end of lockdown comes, some of the measures to consider will be:

· prioritising use of public transport for key workers

· encouraging more pre-booking of travel

· better planning of travel

· staggering shift patterns in the public sector and encouraging businesses to do so

· Encourage remote working to continue

He said he’ll be meeting transport unions, operators and passenger groups to help shape the guidance for the “new normal”.

Mr Skates added that systems need to be in place to manage demand before services are restarted.

The development came after commuters reported being on crowded buses and busy Tube trains in London, with other transport in England seeing an upsurge as people started returning 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.

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.