London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said “we must stop all non-essential travel” as trains in the capital were still crowded on Tuesday despite Boris Johnson putting the UK on lockdown due to the coronavirus.
Travellers reported that carriages remained packed despite instructions for people to stay at home.
Mr Khan demanded that employers enable their staff to work from home “unless it’s absolutely necessary”, adding: “Ignoring these rules means more lives lost.”
LONDON: I cannot say this more strongly: we must stop all non-essential use of public transport now.— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) March 24, 2020
Employers: please support your staff to work from home unless it's absolutely necessary.
Ignoring these rules means more lives lost. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/XeGEuCoWyV
Transport for London (TfL) – which is chaired by Mr Khan – has suspended the Circle line and Waterloo & City line, and reduced frequencies on other parts of the Tube network.
Bus services have also been cut.
The mayor said “growing numbers” of TfL staff are off sick or self-isolating, which means “we cannot run more services than we currently are”.
He added: “Many of those still travelling to work today are on zero hour contracts, work in the gig economy or are freelancers.
“A proper package of support for these workers would alleviate this situation and help public transport, and I’ve raised this with the Government.”
Transport union TSSA called for police to be deployed at major stations in London to ensure “passengers on the city’s public transport network are only those providing vital services”.
General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Only Government has the power to enforce what’s needed.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he spoke to Mr Khan about ensuring there is “enough space to be safe” on London Underground trains for those who must travel, and offered the support of his department.
He urged passengers to only use the Tube “when essential”.
Nurse Julia Harris, who commutes to work at Imperial College NHS Trust, said she had left earlier and changed her route in a bid to avoid crowds but still found services busy.
She told the PA news agency: “Seats on the train all had at least one person so people needed to stand, and the District line was busy as well. I still don’t think things have improved as a large amount of people are commuting early in the morning.
“It is concerning because I have to come to work. The choice isn’t there and my commute is quite long. I worry for my health more on my commute than actually being in the hospital.”
Ms Harris said the reduction in TfL services meant “you now have more people waiting and piling onto the Tubes and trains”.
“The issue is key workers aren’t just health professionals – I think we under-estimated how many people are needed to keep things running.”
I feel like I am risking my health trying to get to workDanielle Tiplady, nurse
Nicola Smith, who works at a central London hospital, said she was “risking my health” to commute by Tube because it was so busy.
She called on TfL to increase services or the Prime Minister to “start policing who’s getting on”.
She added: “Help me!”
Nurse Danielle Tiplady posted on Twitter: “Being on the Tube is making me feel uneasy. It is too busy (and) there is no space for social distancing.”
She urged Mr Johnson and Mr Khan to “go further”, calling on them to “monitor who is getting on the train and allow more services to run”.
She added: “I feel like I am risking my health trying to get to work.”
Finn Brennan, district organiser for train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “Getting lots of reports of early trains being full on the Underground.
“If the Government doesn’t shut construction sites and pay self employment, people will die.”