Ministers plot how to get London transport moving again 

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The elderly could be stripped of free rush-hour travel as ministers suggest one-way systems on train platforms in the latest round of ideas to get London transport moving again.  

Insiders have suggested Freedom Pass holders – those aged over 66 – could be prevented from travelling for free during rush-hour as Britain’s coronavirus lockdown is eased.

Transport chiefs also believe train capacity would need to be limited to 15 to 20 per cent in order for two-metre social distancing measures to be upheld. 

The proposals come as militant unions threatened to use the coronavirus crisis to demand a new deal for rail workers  – including higher pay and a public service ‘free from the grip of private speculation.’

Passengers at Canning Town Underground Station, waiting for a Jubilee Line train on May 1

For Sadiq Khan, this raises the spectre of a lengthy negotiations with unions who could use the safety fears of their workers to demand a raft of concessions including better pay and hours.   

Transport minister Grant Shapps this morning suggested one-way systems could be implemented in train stations as the public are eased back into normal life.  

He added that hand sanitiser dispensers could be installed in stations to help with ‘basic hygiene and hand washing’ which is ‘still by far and away the most important advice above anything else.’ 

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Mr Shapps said: ‘I’m concerned about people being able to wash their hands which is still by far and away the most important advice above anything else, even above face masks and all the rest of it, basic hygiene and hand washing, that message from right at the beginning. 

‘We can help with that by trying to have hand sanitiser, one-way systems, spacing on platforms and bus stops and that kind of thing, clearly marked out so there are a lot of different measures that can be taken, of which easing into this is going to be clearly one of the most important things of all.’

Mr Shapps repeated advice for employers to stagger work times, and said it would be important for the public to ‘avoid those morning peaks and the crushes [which] would be completely at odds with social distancing.’

Pictured: Passengers on a train at Canning Town Station struggle to adhere to social distancing measures

Pictured: Passengers on a train at Canning Town Station struggle to adhere to social distancing measures

Pictured: Two people wearing face masks as a precaution walk past Bond Street tube station on Oxford Street in London on May 2

Pictured: Two people wearing face masks as a precaution walk past Bond Street tube station on Oxford Street in London on May 2

Asked whether temperature checks could be put in place on public transport, the minister said: ‘People shouldn’t be leaving home if they are not feeling well and the thing about coronavirus is the temperature that you feel, the way that you feel is absolutely critical to that so in a sense you shouldn’t be there in the first place if you have a high temperature.’

Mr Shapps added transport bosses will ‘gradually increase’ the number of trains available in order to prevent overcrowding ‘which is doing to be a hugely difficult task’ and ‘require the same sort of determination which the British people have shown in respecting social distancing’.  

Transport chiefs believe around 15 to 20 per cent of a train’s capacity would be available to passengers if they are asked to stay two metres apart.

For example, a 12-carriage train which at capacity can carry up to 1,200 passengers would instead hold just 200.  

Transport minister Grant Shapps this morning (pictured) suggested one-way systems could be implemented in train stations as the public are eased back into normal life

Transport minister Grant Shapps this morning (pictured) suggested one-way systems could be implemented in train stations as the public are eased back into normal life

Levels of transport activity among the public have plunged since lockdown – although there has been a slight uptick over recent days 

On the London Underground, a Victoria Line carriage which can hold 125 passengers in rush-hour would be restricted to 25.

Photographs taken throughout the coronavirus crisis have shown far more than this proposed limit aboard tubes as essential workers have struggled to maintain social distancing measures on their commute. 

Train services, which Mr Shapps are running at five per cent of normal capacity, are set to return to normal frequency ahead of the introduction of a new timetable on May 18. 

But worried transport bosses have warned social distancing measures on networks built to move millions would be ‘impossible.’ 

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash is forcing through a new deal for workers, demanding higher pay and a public service

Sadiq Khan is at the mercy of militant unions which are demanding a new deal for workers

Sadiq Khan is at the mercy of militant unions which are demanding a new deal for workers. Right, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash

Pictured: Passengers on a jubilee line train at rush hour on May 1, where social distancing was impossible

Pictured: Passengers on a jubilee line train at rush hour on May 1, where social distancing was impossible 

‘There’s no way of managing it,’ one told the Sunday Times. ‘The practicalities are impossible. We could end up with public disorder in queues and the pressure on staff will be enormous.

‘The government is going to have to control this at source and tell people they can or cannot return to work.’

Officials have considered offering discounted travel tickets to workers outside of rush-hour times to reduce demand on public transport.   

Children may also be asked to attend school on alternate days or use new timetables to prevent a return to the 1.6million journeys made by students across London each day.   

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash – who represents Tube workers – on Friday wrote a column demanding a new deal for all his workers, including higher pay and a public service, ‘free from the grip of private speculation.’ 

For Sadiq Khan, this raises the spectre of a lengthy negotiations with unions who could use the safety fears of their workers to demand a raft of concessions including better pay and hours. 

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen told MailOnline the unions had Sadiq Khan ‘over a barrel’: ‘As always with Labour politicians, Sadiq Khan is completely in hock to his Union paymasters. 

Britain's death toll (28,131) is bound to overtake Italy's (28,236) by next week and make the UK the second worst-hit country in the world, behind only the US (65,173). The outbreak in the UK is two weeks behind Italy's, meaning its daily death and infection jumps are decreasing at a slower rate

Britain’s death toll (28,131) is bound to overtake Italy’s (28,236) by next week and make the UK the second worst-hit country in the world, behind only the US (65,173). The outbreak in the UK is two weeks behind Italy’s, meaning its daily death and infection jumps are decreasing at a slower rate

The Department of Health stopped giving a breakdown of how many COVID-19 deaths occurred in different settings, such as hospitals or care homes, yesterday

The Department of Health stopped giving a breakdown of how many COVID-19 deaths occurred in different settings, such as hospitals or care homes, yesterday

‘Unions have always had our politicians over a barrel. One positive aspect the public sector has found amid the crises has been an ability to change their way of working and delivering their service more efficiently; if only TfL under Sadiq Khan’s leadership could do the same.’ 

This follows a leaked report by the London Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG), seen by the BBC, said the network would be unable to cope with an influx of commuters. 

It stated the capacity of the Tube and buses would be cut to 15% and 12% respectively compared with normal levels, if a six-foot space between passengers was enforced. And that it would take four weeks to get TfL up and running back to normal levels. 

The RMT union yesterday used the report to insist that it ‘will agree to nothing that compromises the health, safety and livelihoods of members agter insisting that there was ‘zero chance’ staff would return without PPE.

In a column in the Morning Star this morning, he added: ‘One thing is for sure, once it is proven as safe enough for us to move out of the lockdown and begin the process of moving back to some kind of normal operation things will never be the same again.’ 

He boasted about negotiating with transport bosses: ‘RMT has called out those employers at every turn and we have exposed their failures as leverage to force them back into line’ 

‘One thing is for sure, once it is proven as safe enough for us to move out of the lockdown and begin the process of moving back to some kind of normal operation things will never be the same again.’ 

‘If rail and other services can be taken over wholesale by the state to protect them during a crisis then they can be taken over on a permanent basis when that crisis subsides as a public service free from the grip of private speculation.

‘There must also be no more talk of austerity and our colleagues in health and social care should get the pay and the resources they have proven so publicly that they deserve. Their fight will be our fight.

‘Clapping our essential workers on a Thursday evening is fine and shows exactly where the public stand. But that support has to be transformed into a new deal for the whole country and the services and the staff that we value so dearly when this emergency eases.’ 

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