Employers can help to stem crowded commutes

A tube station in London as lockdown restrictions eased last week
Dezonne Erica/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

The chairman of Network Rail has said employers play a vital role in how commuting volumes can be managed as some workers return to work for the second week since lockdown was eased.

Sir Peter Hendy said that employers can “strongly influence people’s behaviour”, adding “you wouldn’t set out for work if someone told you not to come”.

Government advice in England remains that people are advised to work from home if possible, with only certain sectors such as construction and manufacturing encouraged to return to work.

The government also announced last week that cleaners and nannies could return to work in people’s homes, providing social distancing rules were observed.

However, security guards trained in crowd control have been placed on duty at major railway stations this morning, with new measures in place to prevent passengers boarding trains or entering platforms if there are too many people.

Some intercity trains will be reservation only, with train operators blocking off some seats to ensure passengers are spread out.

Network Rail has been asked by the government to come up with a plan to manage the flow of passengers, with additional signs in stations and areas set aside for queuing.

However Mick Cash, general secretary of transport union RMT, said rail companies should introduce “new compulsory protections” such as the wearing of masks.

He said: “We have the crazy situation of Eurostar passengers arriving with masks on into St Pancras but then not wearing masks when they transfer to the Tube or other rail services.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan urged workers to avoid coming into the capital on public transport unless absolutely necessary.

He said: “London’s doing an incredible job slowing the spread of Covid-19, but if we’re to prevent a disastrous second wave we must all continue to stay at home as much as possible and avoid any unnecessary travel, especially on public transport. Don’t let up now. Let’s keep it going.”

New guidance was issued last week by the government on how commuters can travel more safely, including travelling at off-peak times, wearing a face mask and starting or ending their journey at a less busy station.

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