Rail journeys in the UK are now at just 5% of normal levels, according to recent government figures, as passengers stay at home to avoid non-essential travel due to coronavirus.
Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris told the House of Commons transport select committee in a parliamentary hearing – via video – that overall road traffic was also down 71% for last year, falling by 83% on the strategic road network.
London Underground tube journeys were down by a staggering 94%, while there were 80% fewer bus journeys than this last year, the minister said. The number of Cross-Channel Eurostar journeys was now just 1% of those taken daily in 2019.
Bus passenger numbers outside London are down 88% from the same time in 2019, while air traffic is down 92% compared with last year.
Helping key workers
Heaton-Harris said it showed that the public was following government guidance to stay home, and allow space on rail and road for key workers and the flow of essential freight.
He said the government was working with unions to identify where there were shortages of PPE for frontline NHS workers. He added: “We’re particularly saddened about the deaths of bus drivers – these tragic losses emphasise how much we owe to everyone participating in keeping essential services functioning.”
The Unite union said Transport for London had agreed that all buses in the capital would from Wednesday have additional safety measures to protect drivers, including fully sealed screens and nearby seats taken out of service.
While most rail services have been effectively temporarily nationalised, with the government shouldering the drop in revenues, and bus firms have been promised a £400m package of assistance to cover lost fares, airlines have stepped up their calls for help.
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