Following the Government’s announcement of an outline roadmap for the next period, Transport for London has set out its initial plan to support this and help Londoners who need to travel do so safely and sustainably. The plan will require significant changes to the way in which people travel in the City and across London until CV19 restrictions can be lifted. I also call upon the City of London to accelerate our plans to transform and reimagine transportation in the Square Mile. As an immediate step I’ve asked we look at options to support higher levels of walking and cycling around Cheapside to enable shops and restaurants to reopen when it is safe to do so.
In keeping with plans on the national rail network, TfL is working to safely and gradually build up service levels to where they were before the pandemic and will return the number of buses and trains running to as close to 100 per cent as soon as possible.
London Underground is aiming to restore the Circle Line and to re-open some of the 37 stations that have been closed for several weeks. However, some stations will stay closed for now so that staff can be deployed to help manage any congestion at busier stations. Some stations with lift-only access may need to remain closed as social distancing is not possible.
However, as is the case with national rail services, this does not mean a return to the transport network that existed before the crisis.
The national requirement to maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible means that TfL will only be able to carry around 13-15 per cent of the normal number of passengers on the Tube and bus networks even when 100 per cent of services are operating once again over time.
Transport providers, councils, schools, businesses and Londoners all have a vital role to play over the coming weeks, working with Government to meet a travel demand challenge that far outstrips the challenge experienced during the 2012 Olympic games.
During that period it was necessary to reduce normal travel demand by 20 per cent to keep travel safe. Now, demand will have to be reduced by more than 85 per cent compared to normal to enable social distancing to be maintained wherever possible.
Action to support higher levels of walking and cycling
To support the higher levels of walking and cycling that will be needed and support social distancing on streets, the Mayor of London and TfL have begun the ‘London Streetspace’ programme.
Working with London’s councils, this will transform London’s streets to accommodate a possible ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking as lockdown restrictions are eased. I have asked the Corporation to look at impact in the Ward of Cheap, for example how we could pedestrianise most of Cheapside as it’s important we enable local retail and restaurants reopen when it is safe to do so.
Some are arguing that more people would want to drive into the City to go to work. But this is not sustainable, because of air pollution and the simple fact we have around 4,100 parking spaces.
Advice for safe travel
The Government is expected to issue detailed guidance shortly that should be followed by businesses, Londoners and others as they consider whether they need to travel and, if so, how. Reflecting these national messages, TfL has today set out advice for Londoners including:
- If you can work from home, please continue to do so. Avoid public transport wherever possible
- If you need to travel, reimagine how you do so. Walk and cycle if you can. New walking and cycling space is being created through the London Streetspace programme to further support this
- If using public transport, or taxi and private hire services, please travel outside of peak times and use a facial covering, carry a hand sanitizer and wash your hands before and after you travel