Wednesday 25 March 2020 3:28 pm

Coronavirus: Bring back retired Tube drivers, says Tory mayoral candidate

Almost 150 recently retired Tube drivers should be brought back to reduce rush hour overcrowding during the coronavirus crisis, according to Tory mayoral hopeful Shaun Bailey.

Bailey, a London Assembly member, said 139 drivers could be brought back to increase the number of Tube services, similar to what the NHS has done with retired doctors and nurses during the coronavirus outbreak.

Read more: One-third of Tube staff off sick as Underground trains still packed

Read more: Coronavirus: Tube could shut amid overcrowding, union warns

The London Underground has been chaotic at rush hour this week, despite the government’s orders to stay at home unless it is “absolutely necessary” to go to work.

The number of Tube services has been cut in half at peak times by Transport for London (TfL) to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, leading some to call for a restoration of services.

TfL said yesterday that one-third of its staff are currently off sick or self-isolating, meaning that it could not increase public transport services from the current level.

Bailey said Tube drivers who have retired since 2017 could be brought back, without needing extensive new training.

“Right now, packed out trains because of a reduced tube service is endangering the people we need to protect the most,” he said.

“In order to restore the Tube service while some TfL staff are sick or self-isolating, I am proposing using TfL reserve funds to re-hire at least 139 recently retired Tube drivers and engineers to ensure more trains can be run.

“At a time when recently retired medical staff are coming out of retirement to serve our NHS, I know recently retired TfL staff will be champing at the bit to help in any way they can.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said they were doing this with other TfL staff, however it was not possible for drivers.

Read more: Coronavirus: Government goes to war with City Hall over London Tube restrictions

“We are looking at all possible options to keep public transport running for key workers like NHS staff – including bringing back retired staff to help in key roles like control centres,” they said.

“However, tube drivers returning from retirement would need retraining in a cab on a one-to-one basis, which is clearly not possible under the Government’s social distancing guidelines.”