Lockdown hasn’t changed the craziness of the commute.
The coronavirus outbreak has already had quite an impact on the Tube network, what with the closure of 40 stations and fewer people using public transport. Apparently, TfL has recorded an 87% drop in passenger numbers, as work from home advice compels people to stay indoors – a situation made even more likely by the newly announced lockdown. However, pictures emerging on social media this morning show that the Tubes are busy as ever, despite guidance that only “essential workers” should be using them.
Yep. This is my sister’s pic from just before 7am. She works at a hospital in zone 1. pic.twitter.com/AMyUA3RUqf
— Elizabeth Smith (@LizSmith1986) March 24, 2020
Now, it’s extremely easy to look at the pictures of busy Tubes and simply condemn – as, indeed, people on social media have been frighteningly quick to do. However, there are a few caveats to the situation, chief amongst them the fact that 50% of Tube services have been cut during the outbreak. Yes, this means fewer TfL staff on duty, which is good for their social distancing, but fewer trains will inevitably mean busy trains, even with a fall in passenger numbers.
From a friend – whose boss refuses to allow her to work from home – the tube this morning!!! pic.twitter.com/9Cyb8Zf1EK
— Dr Craig Johnston (@DrCEJohnston) March 24, 2020
We should also be cognisant of the fact that there are rather a lot of key workers in London. For instance, the NHS is the fifth largest employer in the entire world, and boasts 1.2 million employees in England alone. A huge chunk of them are going to be London-based, and therefore likely to be using the Tube to get to their extremely important jobs. And that’s before you add in the supermarket workers, those working in the food service industry, people who need to continue working but can’t physically do it from home, and those who’ve simply been told by their boss that they still need to be in work.
LONDON: I cannot say this more strongly: we must stop all non-essential use of public transport now.
Employers: please support your staff to work from home unless it’s absolutely necessary.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) March 24, 2020
Of course, if you are someone riding the Tube simply to get out of the house, please don’t (TfL have asked you very nicely already). This is a pandemic that can actually be defeated by complete and total indolence, so staying home is your best weapon in the fight against coronavirus. And for those quick to comment on the packed Tubes, do bear this in mind: no-one in the whole shining history of London has ever caught the Central line at rush hour just for the sheer thrill of it…
Also published on Medium.