One in six Londoners say they do not intend to use public transport for the foreseeable future in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, while 22% believe they will work from home more often, a new survey reveals.
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The poll carried out by campaign group London First indicates that many in the capital will need reassurance before returning to public transport. This comes as Transport for London set out its plans to keep passengers safe on Monday, following the Government’s announcement of a ‘road map’ to ease the current lockdown.
Of those surveyed, almost a quarter said they plan to use the London Underground and 21% will use buses. These figures are down from 36% and 32% respectively before the lockdown.
“Among the measures that would help passengers feel more confident in the safety of the network are caps on numbers, increased cleaning and the use of face coverings,” said the group’s chief executive Jasmine Whitbread.
“Employers will also need to be flexible about work times and take steps to provide safe working environments for those staff who do return to work.”
Transport for London says that numbers of buses and trains operating will now gradually return to normal levels, however these services will only be able to carry up to 15% of their usual passenger numbers to help ensure social distancing.
The transport authority emphasised that travellers should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible and consider instead making journeys by walking and cycling, as well as travelling outside of peak hours.
However despite the advice reports emerged on Monday of crowded platforms on parts of the London Underground network.
London’s transport commissioner Mike Brown 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.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also announced a new ‘Streetspace’ programme last week which will see streets across the capital repurposed to accommodate major expected growth in cycling and walking as lockdown restrictions ease.
“Many Londoners have rediscovered the joys of walking and cycling during lockdown and, by quickly and cheaply widening pavements, creating temporary cycle lanes and closing roads to through traffic we will enable millions more people to change the way they get around our city,” the Mayor said.
By increasing space for active travel, the intention is to reduce crowding on public transport and ensure people do not turn to private cars in high numbers.
Euston Road will be one of the first major thoroughfares to see temporary cycle lanes installed. Footways have already been doubled in width at locations including Camden High Street and Stoke Newington High Street.
London Cycling Campaign chief executive Dr Ashok Sinha said: “As the lockdown is eased, London will need to get moving again, but in a manner that maintains social distancing. The only way to do this effectively – while also avoiding a calamitous return to toxic air, high carbon emissions and traffic choked streets – is to make it easier and safer for millions of people to walk and cycle.”
The UK’s other capital cities are also bringing forward action to support increasing numbers of people taking to walking and cycling in light of Coronavirus.
Edinburgh councillors are due to consider a report tomorrow which sets out plans to create additional spaces for walking and cycling during the outbreak to ensure people are able to travel actively while maintaining physical distancing.
City Council leader Adam McVey said: “It’s clear that people want and need to make essential journeys and take daily exercise by foot or bike safely and we need to give them the space to do so.”
Cardiff Council laid out proposals last week for measures including extending footway space, creating temporary cycleways and removing street furniture in the Welsh capital.
Cabinet member for strategic planning and transport Caro Wild said: “The pavements in the city were not designed to allow a two metre distance between other people, so public space will have to be adapted to ensure social distancing can be maintained as the city gradually starts to reopen for business.”
In Northern Ireland, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said last week announced that a new walking and cycling champion will be appointed to lead work on supporting active travel during and after Covid-19.
“I want to increase the space available for people who want to walk and cycle by extending pavements, pedestrianising streets and introducing pop up cycle lanes,” the Minister said, mentioning that parts of Belfast have already been identified for transformation.