Tube could be ‘rapidly overwhelmed’ when lockdown is lifted

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A briefing to emergency planners has warned that London’s transport system could be overwhelmed by demand when the coronavirus lockdown is eased, it has been reported.

The London Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG) document stated that London Underground services would be “rapidly overwhelmed” if social distancing was maintained, according to the BBC.

It said the capacity of the Tube and buses would be cut to 15% and 12% respectively compared with normal levels if a two-metre space between passengers is enforced.

The briefing, which contained a number of scenarios, also warned that lifting lockdown measures could put more pressure on the police to manage crowds, enforce restrictions and respond to an increase in crime levels.

The lockdown was announced on March 23 and is next due to be reviewed on May 7.

“We expect that there will be an enormous travel demand challenge that we will all need to overcome together, and planning is under way on how to meet that challenge so that – when the time is right – we can help London get safely moving again as quickly as possible.”

She added that TfL intends to “build up service levels on the transport network to as close as possible to what they were before the pandemic”.

A spokesman for London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The easing of lockdown restrictions will undoubtedly pose serious challenges around maintaining social distancing, particularly in London with our high population density and busy public transport network.

“Life simply won’t be returning to what it was before, and it is vital that the Government now has an open and honest conversation with the public about how we’ll all have to play our part ensuring we maintain appropriate social distancing in all aspects of our daily lives.

“Whether it’s schools, construction sites or other industries having to stagger their opening hours, or restrictions on the use of the public transport, no options should be off the table.

“That’s why it is essential we are fully prepared as a country and a city before the lockdown is eased, with a comprehensive package of measures in place to ensure people’s health is protected.”

A London SCG spokesman told the BBC it is important that emergency planners “understand all the implications and the impact that any changes to lockdown measures could have on individual organisations and the wider public”.

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