Andy Byford, London’s transport commissioner, outlines what he has been doing to make TfL services ready for people to use them again.
I started my career at London Underground in 1989, and through the last few decades I’ve worked for transport organisations all over the world – America, Australia, Canada. All different, but in each case it has been clear how important it is for a major city to have safe, frequent and reliable public transport.
Public transport provides access to work, leisure and education. It supports new homes, jobs and economic growth. It makes cities greener and healthier. That is why we are playing our full part in London’s recovery from the pandemic.
We have returned to near full service levels across our Tube, rail and bus networks and just two Tube stations are yet to reopen. Customers returning to their workplaces and London’s cultural attractions are finding a transport network that is clean, as safe as we can possibly make it and well-managed with staff on hand to offer assistance.
And the number of people returning continues to grow steadily, with the Tube now seeing more than 30 per cent of normal journeys and buses around 55 per cent.
The transport network is cleaner than ever. We have implemented an enhanced cleaning regime using hospital-grade substances that kill viruses and bacteria on contact. More than 1,000 hand sanitiser points are available and our army of cleaning staff can be seen regularly cleaning trains and stations with an antiviral spray that provides long lasting protection.
The overwhelming majority of customers are complying with the mandatory requirement to wear a face covering on public transport unless they are exempt. Our enforcement teams are out on the network working closely with the police to ensure that the small minority who are not complying do so.
We’ve also been working hard to prepare for children returning to school and more people returning to workplaces. We have worked closely with thousands of businesses and schools across London to ensure that everyone can feel confident about how to get around. The bus network has been changed significantly with extra school services.
Many employers are staggering working hours to help employees travel during the quiet times when there is plenty of spare capacity. This is spreading the number of people travelling more evenly across the day so that we can carry more customers while still maintaining social distancing. We are also providing a wealth of new facilities designed to make it easier for people to walk, cycle or jog all or part of the commute through our Streetspace for London programme.
This has obviously been a very difficult few months for our tenants and small retailers in stations. We have supported them by giving more time to pay rent and helping small and medium businesses with significant rent credits so that they can focus on their recovery. More than 1,000 small and medium enterprises such as coffee shops, bike shops, mechanics and even climbing walls have also received rent relief and financial support.
Our hardworking team will continue to support customers, tenants and businesses across London as we help more and more people return to their workplaces. This will revive the services which surround and intertwine financial districts such as the City and Canary Wharf and world-leading shopping, bars and restaurants, theatres and other attractions in the West End and elsewhere across the Capital.
So whether you are reading this on your commute, at your desk in the office or while working from home, we hear you loud and clear that you want a clean, well-managed and reliable public transport service – and that is exactly what we are providing for you.
We are ready when you are.