Life on the Underground is about to look a lot different.
With the new “roadmap” from the UK government proving confusing to most of us, TfL have taken the onus to release their own guidelines for travelling around London, as the UK lockdown shows the first tentative signs of easing. In new information released today, TfL asked Londoners to “continue working from home wherever possible”, and said that their new guidelines will “require significant changes to the way in which people travel in London”. Here’s what you need to know.
The biggest way in which TfL is hoping to ensure social distancing on tubes and buses is by making sure that as few people use them as possible. Their first piece of advice is that “public transport should be avoided wherever possible”, with Londoners asked to reimagine their journeys and opt for walking and cycling as alternative means of transport, staying within the local area if possible.
If using public transport is inevitable – given that the Prime Minister has “actively encouraged” certain people to return to work – employers are asked to do their bit to help by urging staff to avoid travelling at the busiest times of day. Indeed, travelling outside of peak times is a guideline that we’re all being asked to follow as much as possible.
Should you use public transport, TfL’s new guidelines specify that “face coverings should be used” – especially as the two-metre rule is hard to maintain in buses and on tubes – which is also the new advice being given by the UK government. They’ll supplement this with stricter cleaning regimes, which include hospital-grade cleaning substances that kill viruses on impact, a disinfectant that protects for up to 30 days, and wiping down poles and doors every day. We’re also being encouraged to carry hand sanitiser with us, and wash our hands both before and after travelling.
Currently, TfL are running around 60% of Tube services and 80% of bus journeys, but they’re aiming to build up service levels to pre-pandemic levels. By May 18, they’re hoping to up those stats to 70% of Tube journeys and 85% of bus services, along with an 80% service on the DLR. In other news, they’re planning to restore the Circle Line, and re-open several of the 40 stations which were closed in the early days of lockdown. As before, managing congestion at the busier stations will remain the priority, and lift-only access stations will remain closed as social distancing is near-impossible in them.
Efforts will be supplemented with new social-distancing posters across the transport network, and two-metre floor markings on platforms. Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan and TfL have launched the ‘London Streetspace’ programme, which is designed to transform our streets to make better use of walking and cycling.
The ambitious aim is to “accommodate a possible ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking”, as the need to reduce the rate of infection meets the need to clean up London’s filthy air and make our city greener. The plan will involve construction on a strategic cycle network, the opening up of new routes, and widening footways across the capital. Ambitious, indeed, but it’s in pursuit of a healthier city both now and in future, so fingers crossed it takes off.
Also published on Medium.