As the Government’s ‘Plan B’ restrictions are lifted and regulations are relaxed across England from Thursday 27 January, Transport for London (TfL) is reminding customers that face coverings remain a requirement to be worn on its services. A near-normal service continues to operate across London’s public transport network and a number of active travel options, including walking and cycling routes in central London and the Santander Cycles network, are available to customers all over the capital.
TfL intends to retain the condition of carriage requiring all customers using any TfL service or station to wear a face covering unless they are exempt. Those who do not comply could be prevented from entering the network or asked to leave TfL services.
Following the Government’s decision to remove working from home guidance, TfL has seen public transport use grow in recent days as London recovers from the pandemic. In early December 2021, prior to the introduction of ‘Plan B’ measures, the Tube network regularly saw more than 60 per cent of normal journeys during weekdays, reaching as high as 80 per cent at weekends, while ridership on buses was regularly at 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Last week, TfL was seeing around 2m journeys per weekday on the Tube which was around half of pre-pandemic levels and up around 10 per cent compared to the week before. Weekday bus ridership was also at around 4.25m journeys a day, about 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. At weekends, Tube and bus ridership is closer to pre-pandemic levels with the Tube reaching 64 per cent of pre-pandemic levels this weekend and some specific times of the day reaching close to three quarters of pre-pandemic levels. TfL figures indicate that millions of Londoners are regularly using public transport across the city, showing continued confidence that services are safe, clean and reliable.
Lilli Matson, TfL’s Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer, said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming many more people back to our network as they return to offices and workplaces across the capital. London’s recovery from the pandemic hinges on transport and we are ready to play our role in moving people around the city, allowing them to reach work and leisure destinations and keeping people safe.
“Customers are still required to wear face coverings throughout their journeys on our services in order to keep each other and our staff safe, and to reassure Londoners that the network is as safe as possible. We’re operating a good planned service on our network and making sure that it’s as clean as possible with staff ready to assist and offer advice where needed.”
TfL’s enhanced cleaning regime also continues to ensure the transport network is cleaner than ever. Trains, trams, buses and stations are cleaned with hospital-grade cleaning substances that kill viruses and bacteria on contact and provide ongoing protection. Independent testing by Imperial College London has been carried out monthly since September 2020, taking swabs of touch points in stations, buses and air samples in ticket halls and up to the last verified testing round in December 2021 has found no traces of coronavirus on the public transport network.
The transport network is also well ventilated. Train and bus doors opening frequently ensures a regular exchange of air across the public transport network, while the constant movement of trains draws fresh air into the system. In the deeper Tube lines, ventilation shafts and fans supplement this air movement. Assessments on Tube carriages indicate that the air changes over 20 times each hour, more than the six to 12 times recommended by the Rail Safety and Standards Board. Buses, which are cleaned daily, have been modified to keep windows propped open and are also fitted with a range of air extraction and ventilation systems. These systems, in conjunction with leaving windows open and the frequent opening of doors, ensure the flow of fresh air through the vehicle.
The planned closure of the Northern line between Kennington and Moorgate until May to facilitate the completion of the vital modernisation of Bank Tube station is the only current closure on the Tube network. Once complete, the new Bank station will feature more space, greater accessibility and improved journey times for customers travelling to the City. While the closure is ongoing, bus routes in the area have been bolstered and the new route 733 will call at stops on the Tube line to allow customers in south London to reach the City.
Londoners are encouraged to use active travel options such as walking and cycling for all or part of their journey. Legible London signs across the city provides local information, potential routes for those walking and cycling, including Santander Cycles and nearby docking stations.
TfL is operating a near-normal service across the network to help social distancing, however factors like staff absence and busier services as people return to work may mean that social distancing is more difficult at some times than others. The Waterloo & City line is currently operating a peak-time service only, this will be increased to full weekday opening hours from Monday 31 January. Short-term absences may also mean some changes to frequency or short-notice closures on the Tube network. The latest service information will be available online and through TfL travel tools including the TfL Go app. Customers are advised to check their journey before they travel.
Photo credit: TfL