Coronavirus: Additional trains force commuters to work as unions warn of ‘high risk strategy’ | UK News


Commuters returning to work have been warned to expect crowd management and social distancing measures as public transportation services intensify.

Rail and metro services are increasing as of today, even though the government has urged workers not to use public transport.

Union officials have complained that this sends mixed messages to millions of workers, and many still question whether it is safe to return to their workplace.

This decision comes at the start of the first full work week since Boris Johnson defined his plan for coronavirus lockdown in England, urging employees unable to work from home to return to their place of work.

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The Rail Delivery Group said rail services would drop from about 50% of the standard schedule to 70%.

However, in order to maintain social distance, their capacity will be reduced to only 10% of normal levels, and passengers are advised to avoid non-essential travel.

Robert Nisbet of the Rail Delivery Group said operators face challenges related to increasing travel capacity.

He told Sky News: “We are introducing a number of measures such as improving train cleaning and maintaining social separation to make our passengers as safe as possible.

“The advice is to take the train only when absolutely necessary, but think of other means of transport such as walking or cycling. “

Other British Transport Police officers will be deployed to London stations to control the crowd.

Passengers should wear face masks and continue to keep a distance of two meters from other people as much as possible.

The government urges transport operators to reorganize, remove or limit seats “to try to ensure social distancing”, which may include blocking seats close to others and removing seats face to face.

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Passengers on the London North Eastern Railway are only allowed to board trains if they have a reservation and a ticket.

Passengers are invited to sit in a window seat, with one person per row of four seats and two empty rows between each passenger.

People in the same household will be allowed to sit together, but must maintain a “safe distance” from other people.

Avanti West Coast said that commuters without reservations may not be able to travel on the train of their choice, as capacity is limited to about a quarter of normal levels.

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Train operator Northern said there will be “significantly reduced capacity on each of our trains.”

Rail services have been massively cut for weeks since the lockout was announced, causing demand to plummet and staff illnesses to rise.

Although people in England have been asked to return to their place of work if they cannot work from home, those in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been advised that they should always stay at home.

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Transportation unions are concerned about returning to work too soon and tell their members that they will be supported if they refuse to work for safety reasons.

The Aslef Train Drivers Union advises its members of their right to refuse to work where they are threatened with grave and imminent danger.

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organizer on the London Underground, said: “Despite our objections, the London Underground insisted that train drivers return to work as they did before the COVID-19 crisis.

“They are told that they can no longer continue to work in the safest way that they have worked in the past six weeks.

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“It is because the government insists that Transport for London maximize the service it operates, regardless of the implications for driver safety.

“Forty-two TfL workers have already lost their lives due to this terrible disease. The government seems to view them only as collateral damage. “

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has said that increasing rail service is a “high risk strategy”.

He said he was concerned that “hasty political considerations outweigh the safety of staff and passengers.”

The union called for new mandatory protections for passengers and rail workers, including the application of a social distance of two meters on trains.

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It also requires the mandatory wearing of masks by passengers, which should be provided free of charge at stations and capable of being disposed of safely.

RMT Secretary General Mick Cash said: “We oppose the rapid relaxation of the lockdowns and believe that non-essential workers should avoid using the trains. When people absolutely have to use a train, there should be new mandatory protections.

“We have the crazy situation of Eurostar passengers arriving with masks in St Pancras but not wearing masks when transferred to the metro or other rail services. “

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said the message remained: people should only go to work if they cannot work from home.

He said they should avoid public transport if possible and maintain social distance if they have no other choice.

The spokesperson added, “We have asked operators to increase the number of services starting today to help reduce pressure on the transportation network, providing more space for social distancing as well only for increased reliability and additional capacity for the future. “


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