Mail Online: Monday, May 11, 2020 – Militant unions have proposed closing the Tube network entirely – paralysing London and torpedoing hopes of an economic recovery – as their solution to solving overcrowding on trains.
It comes as thousands of lower income Londoners are forced onto packed trains by the unions refusal to put on more trains while Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan insists that London is still locked down despite Boris Johnson’s announcement of an exit plan on Sunday.
The battle over the future of transport in the capital is playing out against a wider clash clash between the private sector – with just 13 percent union membership – and the government as it tries to get back to work .
The public sector has 77 percent union membership and and has not seen its employees furloughed, while private sector workers take pay-cuts or face looming unemployment if their employers don’t get back to business.
But this morning they retweeted a tweet from BBC journalist Tom Edwards that said: ‘@RMTUnion says tube should be closed if a surge in passengers this week means social distancing can’t be implemented and passenger numbers can’t be controlled.’
Thousands of people have heeded the Prime Minister’s advice last night and have gone back out on the road, or onto crowded tubes that still have no social distancing measures in place.
Commuters have reacted with outrage at the lack of safety measures in place, with exasperated tube users messaging Tfl on social media asking what are they going to do about the crowded carriages.
Labour and the unions have suggested that workers should ignore the Prime Minister’s advice and stay at home or walk out of their workplace until the Government publishes full guidance for employers to make workplaces safe for staff to return.
Trains and Tube services were busier today after Mr Johnson said those who can’t work at home should now go into work – most appeared to be in the construction industry heading to building sites in central London.
But office and banking districts such as the City of London and Canary Wharf were largely deserted today.
The Government is already facing bitter rows with transport unions about increasing the number of buses and trains towards normal levels and teaching unions about plans to reopen primary schools from June 1.
Mr Khan has failed to demand extra trains be put on by TfL bosses, despite the Prime Minister signalling in last night’s speech that millions of people should get back to work today.
In his statement Mr Khan said: “I want to be clear as possible with Londoners – social distancing measures are still in place.
“Lockdown hasn’t been lifted and we all still need to play our part in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“You must still stay at home as much as possible and keep a safe two-metre distance from other people at all times when you are out.”
It comes amid confusion over the government’s messaging this morning after a disastrous media round by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
He said insisted the government is not urging workers to return until Wednesday – when most were already on their way by road or public transport this morning.
Commuters have already reported large traffic jams in major roads such as the M25, and in London, people have been pictured crammed onto tubes with no social distancing in place at all.
The latest figures from TomTom, which measure traffic levels show that traffic into London is up 20 per cent compared to last week.
TfL has today asked passengers to use face coverings as part of its plan to help London return to work safely.
In the guidance, released this morning, it said: Londoners are being asked to play their part in the national effort against the virus and will be asked to wear facial coverings whenever travelling on public transport or by taxi or private hire vehicle. This could help reduce the rate of infection.
“TfL front line staff, cleaners, and London’s bus drivers will also be offered face masks, starting from today, should they wish to use them.”
This morning commuters have reacted with concern about travelling in the capital as millions return to work after seven weeks in lockdown.
Gerry Tiernan, who is head of production in the costume department at English National Ballet, said she is “‘worried” about increased passenger numbers.
The 54-year-old, who was travelling to Canning Town from Brentford, told the PA news agency: ‘I am surprised at the amount of people who aren’t wearing masks at the moment.
“It has been great travelling when no-one is around, but it is going to get busier now. It’s going to be pure luck as to whether you get it (Covid-19) or not.
“There are signs on the Tube saying ‘Keep two metres apart’ but no-one is doing it. When there are more people, it is going to be terrible.”