Commuters struggled to stay apart on the Tube ‘s escalators

Rail unions have today been accused of trying to stymie Britain’s recovery while holding the country to ransom after they said it was “premature” to open up the country’s public transport network when the lockdown eases.

Mail Online reports: “RMT’s Assistant General Secretary Mick Lynch said today that ministers want to be running around 85% of train and Tube services within a fortnight despite it not being ‘safe’ – days after they demanded a new pay deal for workers during the coronavirus crisis.

“Mick Lynch also admitted ‘most’ of their members are working despite Mayor of London Sadiq Khan slashing Tube and bus services to 15% and 12% respectively compared with normal levels and closing 40 stations. Yet tens of thousands of key workers are cramming on to public transport every day because they have no choice but to travel to work.

“Commuters today shared photographs showing that despite passenger numbers being down between 85 and 95% underground carriages are dangerously packed – with many saying that without increasing the number of services drastically it will be impossible to get many people back to work and fire up the economy again.

“The country’s three biggest rail unions have written to Boris Johnson warning that increasing train services to normal levels from May 18 will be ‘dangerous and lead to the public flouting the rules’. But the millions of Britons who have either been furloughed, had pay cuts or have been forced to shut their business are desperate to get back to work again.

“There is also growing anger among private sector bosses who see the unions’ invention as a form of blackmail as they try to use the current turmoil as a chance to push through pay rises for their public sector members.”

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told MailOnline today: “This is absolutely typical of the militant transport unions – they are trying to exploit the crisis and hold the Government to ransom for more money.

All through the lockdown we have relied on the NHS and other public services – but when we come out the other side it will be the private sector and wealth creators who will be relied on to pay and support the public sector and help rebuild the economy. In order to achieve that we need schools to reopen so parents can go back to work – and they need a fully functioning public transport system to get there.

“Every day we are in lockdown the economic hole we are in gets bigger. The unions are trying to stand in the way.”

Tory MP Henry Smith told Mail Online:”‘Unions like the RMT should act in the national interest to help key workers travel and get Britain’s economy moving again following the COVID-19 public health restrictions. Suggestions from their leadership that they won’t fully cooperate to increase rail capacity is irresponsible and politically motivated.”

Sadiq Khan has claimed that “Transport for London needs four weeks to prepare for lockdown easing – because it has furloughed 7,000 staff and up to a third of workers have been in self-isolation through the crisis”.

“But experts fear that without a fully running public transport system ‘coronaphobia’ in the population could hamper efforts to get the economy running again, with polls showing significant numbers would be nervous about returning to work.