TfL Commissioner Andy Byford tells LBC public transport is safe despite Covid

5 March 2021, 09:12 | Updated: 5 March 2021, 11:46

By Kate Buck

TfL's Commissioner has told LBC that public transport in London is safe, saying Government messaging at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to avoid it was "unhelpful".

Andy Byford told Nick Ferrari that current use of TfL's Underground and buses is only around 20% what it would usually be, and once life can return to normal he thinks people will need the "confidence" to use them again.

When people were first told to work from home, the Government told the public to avoid using public transport, something which Mr Byford thinks could contribute to thoughts it is unsafe.

"I think in the early days the messaging which rather unhelpfully said to avoid public transport which really was a proxy or a metaphor for saying keep public transport free for those who really need it," he told Nick.

Read more: No traces of Covid-19 found on London's tubes or buses

"That gave people the impression that it was unsafe. Academic research has found it's no less safe than other areas like supermarkets."

Mr Byford added they're leaving "nothing to chance" however and have had researchers from Imperial College testing touch points on TfL's network and air samples and have so far found no evidence of Covid-19 on public transport.

Samples were taken from station concourses and commonly touched surfaces such as ticket machines and escalator handles to determine whether somebody with the virus has touched them.

All the results have tested negative - including for the variants first discovered in Kent and South Africa.

Senior research fellow at Imperial, Dr David Green, said the findings testing are "reassuring for passengers".

He told reporters a number of factors are contributing to the negative results, including Transport for London's (TfL) enhanced cleaning regime, the requirement for passengers to wear face coverings, and the reduction in demand.

"It shows that we're taking the necessary precautions to minimise the risk of transmission on the Underground network," he said.

Key to keeping the network safe is ensuring social distancing guidelines can be followed, Mr Byford said, which is why TfL has been running a full service, despite the number of people using it dropping by around 80% since before the pandemic.