Posted 5th May 2020 | 4 Comments

TfL confirms earlier warnings about Underground limits

THE London Underground will not be able to carry as nearly as many passengers as before while social distancing is required, according to a leaked report from Transport for London.

TfL’s conclusions essentially confirm those of the London Strategic Coordination Group, whose calculations for several scenarios were leaked last week. The LSCG had warned that the effective capacity of the Underground could be reduced to 15 per cent, even with services restored, and the railway could be ‘rapidly overwhelmed’.

The findings from TfL agree that the capacity of the system would be greatly reduced by social distancing, and according to the BBC 50,000 passengers could board every 15 minutes, compared to 325,000 at the height of the peak before, which again would mean capacity coming down to around 15 per cent.

The findings come shortly after the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank suggested that ‘the relative price of peak-time travel’ could be changed to discourage commuters during the peaks.

Meanwhile, the RMT, which is concerned about unconfirmed reports that train services could be increased on 18 May, has described the leaked TfL report as ‘a wake-up call’.

The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘The issues on London Underground would be mirrored on other rail services and it's about time those leading the charge towards May 18 started taking these realities seriously.

‘To maintain the Government’s own social distancing guidance would mean huge logistical and staffing input to ‎manage passenger flows on to trains and it is imperative that all staff involved in this process are properly protected.

‘RMT will not compromise on the health, safety and livelihoods of our members and we will not agree to anything that fails to put the safety of staff and passengers first.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Thomas Allen, Tonbridge

    Will operators even bother to run trains if they can carry so few passengers there is no hope of any profit? To what extent will government subsidise rail and bus companies to continue running 12 car trains with 100 passengers on board or double decker buses carrying 10?

    And what about 'school trains' and buses? These will be impossible to operate within the expected laws.

    There will be a massive increase in car usage which overturns all city planning for the past 20 years.

    [For an answer to the question you raise about profit, please see the Monday Essay on this site for 11 May.--Ed.]

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Maybe train companies like C2C might have to reduce or even eliminate stops at stations like Barking and Upminster to stop their long distance trains being used by short distance London commuters who have District and Hammersmith and City lines for London journeys.

    While social disturbance even if distance is reduced from 2 metres will still be difficult at some stations with narrow passages so some stations might have to be closed while others might have to be one way only with entry / exit .

    It seems short term measures are being taken to widen pavements and introducing temporary cycle ways to create an alternative. Perhaps banning cars in zones 1/2 or restricted use on certain main roads might also be introduced.

  • Garth, Dunkeld

    One way of limiting numbers might be to keep an overall control of how many people were using an individual train, and then in advance pass that number to subsequent stops, and limit passengers joining platforms. I can't see how trains can be safely used without something like this. May also involve target numbers for stations.

  • Jez Milton, Manchester

    Although closing London Underground completely until there's a vaccine would be challenging, I'd say it's possible. Allow street parking and parking on pavements. Meanwhile West End car parks - used mainly by shoppers, in the past, won't be seeing much use for the foreseeable. Buses would still run (without use of front doors).

    LU staff furloughed with many/most then made redundant. Some reemployed if/when we get a vaccine, though depending on how many passengers then return.