A row has broken about between the Government and Sadiq Khan about overcrowding on the London Underground during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tube is operating at around 50% of its normal capacity during peak times, leading to images of packed carriages being posted on social media.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed there is “no good reason” why Transport for London (TfL) reduced Tube frequencies, and it should be running in full so passengers are “spaced out”.
He added: “We should have more Tube trains running.”
But a spokesman for London Mayor Mr Khan insisted ministers have been told “countless times” that TfL cannot run a full service due to levels of staff sickness and self-isolation.
He said: “Nearly a third of staff are already absent – there aren’t enough drivers and control staff to do it.”
Mr Khan’s spokesman urged the Government to “act urgently to get more people staying at home rather than going to work unnecessarily”.
He accused ministers of refusing to take “difficult decisions” on banning non-essential construction work and providing “proper financial support” so freelancers, the self employed and those on zero-hours contracts stay at home.
TfL pledged to “continue to run as much of a Tube service as we possibly can”.
When TfL reduced Tube frequencies last week, it stated that this was “to ensure a safe and reliable service”.
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
British Transport Police said its officers “will be on hand to support rail operators if people are clearly disregarding the advice”.
Nurse Julia Harris, who commutes to work at Imperial College NHS Trust, said she had started her journey 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.”
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”.
And she added: “Help me!”