Coronavirus Update from TfL (May 7th)

In terms of day to day operations, we continue to run a core Tube service so essential journeys can be made, but with around a fifth of our frontline staff currently off work (including those in self-isolation as well as those who are not able to drive trains for medical reasons) we simply are not able to run a full service. You will recall from an earlier update that absence levels have been as high as a third of our front-line staff during earlier parts of the coronavirus pandemic, and with many of our operational staff having years of safety-critical training in order to run specific lines, it is simply not possible to replace them with others or retrain those who have kindly offered to return.

In spite of these staff absences, we have been able to run over 60 per cent of Tube trains during rush hour, and more than 80 per cent of buses. We are doing everything we can to continue safely running a basic service to support essential journeys, and continue to do everything we can to make the network as safe as possible – from enhancing the cleaning regime to using our communication channels to remind the travelling public of what they can do to reduce their own risk and that of others.

As I mentioned in my email to you on 24 April, we have taken the difficult decision to place some 7,000 members of our staff on furlough for an initial period of three weeks – this represents around 25 per cent of the workforce employed. However, we have ensured that all staff required for recovery planning and delivery have been retained. Looking ahead, however, the likely requirement for continued social distancing means no mass transit system of the scale as we have in the Capital will be able to operate at full capacity. With social distancing measures remaining in place, even operating at near maximum service, we expect the total carrying capacity of the Tube to be reduced to between 13 and 20 per cent of pre-crisis levels.

The current challenges do, however, present an opportunity to support greater active travel. We have already started working with London boroughs to widen pavement space in key locations to help facilitate social distancing and alleviate the increased pressure as a result of increased walking, and this morning we outlined plans for our ‘London Streetspace’ programme which will transform roads in the Capital’s to accommodate a possible ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking when lockdown restrictions are eased. As set out in my email earlier this week, on our own road network we have started making improvements to enable greater social distancing using temporary infrastructure, doubling the size of pavements on Camden High Street and Stoke Newington High Street, with more to follow in the coming weeks. We will also be working to create new walking and cycling routes along major corridors, including temporary cycle lanes in Euston Road.

We know that the next phase in responding to coronavirus is going to be one of the most challenging in TfL’s history. We continue to have constructive discussions with the Government about the urgent financial support we need in order for us to put in place solutions to ensure as many Londoners as possible will be able safely to travel around the Capital.