Tuesday 24 March 2020 11:22 am

Coronavirus: Tube could shut amid overcrowding, union warns

Transport for London’s (TfL) biggest train drivers’ union has warned the Tube could shut if people continue to overcrowd carriages at rush hour.

Chaotic scenes were witnessed on the Tube once again this morning, despite Boris Johnson effectively putting the country on coronavirus lockdown last night.

TfL also heavily reduced its public transport services last week to a daily “Saturday-type service” to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The Aslef train drivers’ union London Undergound representative Finn Brennan told City A.M. that trains were overcrowded, because too many people still going to work.

He said the government needed to shut down the construction sector and other workplaces, or else too many TfL staff would catch Covid-19 and be unable to provide a service at all.

“A large number of TfL staff are sick and in self isolation, and if more people end up in this condition, then they won’t be able to provide a service at all,” he said.

“While workplaces and construction sites are open, people will continue to get sick.

“Our people want to do the right thing. London Underground and TfL are doing the right thing, but national governemnt need to shut workplaces.”

Some have taken to social media to criticise TfL for running a reduced service, urging the transport body to increase the number of Tubes and buses.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who oversees TfL, moved to reduce public transport last week after government restrictions caused a 70 per cent drop in Tube passenger numbers.

Speaking to ITV today, Khan said TfL could not increase public transport services as too many workers were sick or self-isolating.

“We have now in TfL more than 20 per cent sick or self-isolating, including critical staff who we need to ensure public transport runs safely,” he said.

“My message is don’t use public transport unless you really have to go to work – you work in the NHS, food supply, the police.

“We can’t run tubes, trains or buses that are unsafe. That includes critical staff who we need to ensure public transport runs well. Some of the people on the tube today and yesterday aren’t essential workers.”

The Conservatives’ London Assembly leader Susan Hall sent a letter to the mayor today to urge him to “call in the police” to “enforce the coronavirus lockdown”.

She wrote: “It is of course vital that key workers, particularly NHS staff, have the means to travel to and from work, and that they can do as such in a way which minimises any risk to them – through effective social distancing.

“A police presence at stations may make some think twice before travelling, but they could also check who was commuting to prevent non-critical workers from travelling, record any employers who are forcing their workers to commute unnecessarily, or implement crowd control measures to prevent crowded platforms and trains.”