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How will London's transport network find a new normal?

On Wednesday (May 6) London Travel Watch held an online seminar where the matter of how will London’s transport network emerge from lockdown was discussed.

An update is expected today (May 7) from Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Mr. Johnson will review the lockdown in England with his cabinet later today, after suggesting some rules could be eased from Monday.

Deputy Mayor of London for Transport under Sadiq Khan, Heidi Alexander, opened the discussion.

She said: “Tube travel over the past 7 weeks has reduced by 95%. Fare income has reduced by 95%. On Easter Sunday we saw the fewest numbers of tube journeys since the 19th century. We’re going to be running as many services as possible with the staff we have but people need to work from home where possible.


“We’ve launched today the Mayors London Streetspace plan for safer cycle routes. We advise people to try and avoid pinch point stations like Paddington, where possible. The Mayor has been upfront about the government advising people that on crowded settings that they should wear face covers.

“We want to work with Londoners and government to make the adjustment back to the new normal as smooth as possible.”

Kirsty Hoyle, CEO of Transport for All, spoke about the difficulties the disabled and older people have faced during the lockdown.

She said: “We want to know how long initiatives that have been put in place will last for. Transport for London had a great initiative and still do where if people need support for their access needs, if that can’t happen under the 2m social distancing guideline, they’re given a free taxi.

“Also, consistent and accessible communication is very important. For example, if you are a wheelchair user who is coming into work and using the London Transport Network, if you’re told a station is step-free but it isn’t level access, and there is a mistake you might have to wait another hour to get on a train. So, the reduced capacity on the network is going to put less margin for error and more increased risk for disabled people.”

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations & Regions at Rail Delivery Group, gave an insight into the rail industry and how they have been working to come back to a new normal.

He said: “Transport is just one part of the jigsaw as we restart the economy. We are also in a different position from Transport for London as the train industry in that the government has stood behind the rail industry to such a an extend that effectively franchises have been paused and most of the train operating companies are now working on EMA’s, emergency measure agreements, which in effect the train operating companies, rather than taking the ticket revenue and paying premium for government, are getting paid a small management fee to supply services.


“When we start to lift out of lockdown and government clearly wants to get the economy going, but as we start to ramp up services what are the implications of specifically advice on social distancing and the advice on PPE because that makes a completely different approach from the industry as to how we respond. Wearing facemasks and/or social distancing where possible is likely to be a solution or the way forward if they want to ramp up train services.

“So, in affect what we have said to the government is, this is the amount of capacity we think we could deliver with those scenarios, now you have to decide how to use that capacity. We think that a slow ramping up rather than a flick of a switch is going to be the best way to manage this. Wearing face masks, one-way flow on carriages, keeping seats free, it’s going to be a huge behavioural change exercise.

“One of the key elements of this is not only keeping passengers and staff safe but also the fact that is a shared endeavour. People have got to help us to help them.”


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