UK records biggest jump in transport use since pandemic began

Monday rush hour sees spike in commuters across country as trains return to 90% of pre-coronavirus services

A commuter at Brixton Underground Station in London
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Public transport use at some of the largest railway stations the UK has surged to its highest level since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, following the reopening of schools and workplaces across the country.

According to footfall data published by Network Rail for the 20 busiest stations in Britain, more people joined the Monday morning rush hour than on any other day since lockdown measures were implemented in March.

According to The Guardian, footfall at major stations including Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New Street, Edinburgh Waverley and a number of London stations “increased by 12% on Monday compared with Friday” after trains in England, Wales and Scotland restored up to 90% of their normal service levels this week.

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However, Sky News reports that the latest government figures show rail use is still only at 31% of pre-pandemic levels, and worker footfall in cities was only 17% of normal levels in the first two weeks of August.

And, says the BBC, if too many people use the network, rail companies will have to “manage passenger flows by warning people if a particular service is busy”. Some modern trains, like those running on Southeastern and Govia Thameslink, are able to “monitor the weight load in carriages, allowing them to estimate the number of people on board”.

However, Sky News reports, data from the Rail Safety and Standards Board recently revealed that the “risk of contracting Covid-19 on an average journey is below 0.01%”.

Trains were not the only mode of transport in demand on Monday morning. Transport for London (TFL) said bus travel across the city increased by 39% compared with last Tuesday, the first day of the working week after the bank holiday.

The number of passengers passing through ticket barriers on the London Underground rose by 15%.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said the rail industry “must focus on maintaining good performance so that passengers can travel with confidence”. Crowding will lead to disruption and “has the potential to damage trust in the railway”, he added.

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