UK records biggest jump in transport use since pandemic began

UK records biggest jump in transport use since pandemic began

Rail station footfall up 12% on Monday compared with Friday, as workers and pupils return.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK records biggest jump in transport use since pandemic began” was written by Jasper Jolly, for The Guardian on Monday 7th September 2020 17.45 UTC

The number of passengers using major public transport hubs has jumped to the highest since the start of the pandemic as more pupils returned to school and amid a government push for employees to return to workplaces.

More people entered the UK’s key rail hubs during the morning peak period on Monday than had done so at any time since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, according to footfall figures from Network Rail, the infrastructure manager that runs the UK’s 20 busiest stations.

Footfall in major stations increased by 12% on Monday compared with Friday, Network Rail said. Those stations include the major London termini as well as commuter hubs such as Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New Street, Edinburgh Waverley and Bristol Temple Meads.

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In London, bus travel on Monday increased by 39% when compared with last Tuesday, the first day of the working week after the bank holiday, Transport for London (TfL) said. The number of passengers passing through ticket barriers on the London Underground also rose by 15% on Monday compared with the previous Tuesday.

The government has urged British workers to return to workplaces in part because of concerns over permanent damage to the UK’s city economies. The push did not result in large numbers of workers returning to office districts in London and Manchester last week.

The latest TfL data showed a marked increase in the number of passengers on each of the past five working days. However, numbers have not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Only a third of London Underground passengers had returned on Monday compared with last year, while bus travel was at just over half of 2019 levels.

Train operators have been encouraging the public to return since July after receiving the go-ahead from government. However, Downing Street will be closely watching passenger trends this week after the rail industry restored 90% of its normal services. Buses and railways have been forced to rely on government subsidies to sustain services that can only carry half their normal number of passengers.

There was also evidence that the government’s calls for people to avoid public transport earlier in the pandemic had encouraged more people to use private cars, as congestion increased to pre-pandemic levels in London.

Live road traffic data from TomTom showed higher congestion at 9am on Monday than at the equivalent point in 2019 in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

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Public transport data was not available on Monday for many of the UK’s major cities, but anecdotal evidence suggested that some areas had increased traffic.

Merseytravel in Liverpool said staff had reported the network was busier than previous weeks, while Transport for Greater Manchester said staff surveying passengers on the Metrolink tram network had also encountered greater volumes.

West Midlands Railway, which serves many of Birmingham’s commuter lines, did not report a large increase in passenger numbers.

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