- Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced lockdown was easing and people should return to work this week
- Calls for Sadiq Khan to ramp up trains and buses as commuters travelled in appalling conditions
- Passenger numbers are up 45% at London Waterloo Station and also up 25% at London Bridge station
- Traffic on major roads is increasing too - with jams appearing on major roads for the first time in months
- Unions have renewed threat to remove their staff from buses and trains and said: 'If it's not safe don't do it'
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been accused of blackmailing Boris Johnson after threatening to cut Tube, train and bus services unless the PM agrees an emergency bailout of £2billion by the end of today.
Mr Khan has claimed that Transport for London will go bust unless the Government hands over cash to fill the £4billion black hole coronavirus has left in its finances because of an 80 per cent plunge in income from fares, advertising and the congestion charge.
TfL was already losing millions each month before the coronavirus and is billions in debt after Mr Khan's decision to freeze fares every year since he was elected in 2020. He has also been accused of being too soft on militant transport unions and having the worst average strikes record of any Mayor.
Industry sources have claimed TfL is losing £600million a month during the crisis and wants £2billion in taxpayer-funded support even though bosses have £1.2billion in their cash reserves.
Mr Khan told LBC: 'Being blunt, today is the last day. Unless the government today gives us confirmation of the grant that we need, the consequences could be quite severe and the implications for all of us will be huge. The only way to balance the books is to cut services'.
Former Tory minister Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon, told MailOnline: 'An extraordinary remark. He is threatening the health of Londoners by saying this sort of thing. We need to get the networks, the Tube and the London suburban network back up to full capacity. the mayor should concentrate on running as big a service as possible so people can travel socially distanced and in as responsible a way as possible.’
There has also been anger over Mr Khan's comments on LBC this morning, with one listener saying: 'He is trying to blackmail the government and yes he is prepared to use the health and safety of London’s key workers as collateral for a bailout of his transport service', while another critic tweeted: 'It's blackmail - just as people start to return to work'.
A senior government source said negotiations are ongoing, and made clear the Mayor will need to make commitments on boosting capacity to get funding. ‘We’re ready to put money into keeping the tube running, but Sadiq Khan needs to agree to maximise capacity so there are enough tubes and passengers can socially distance and travel safely,’ the source said.
‘He has a black hole in his budget because of a reckless fare freeze, and because he’s failed to collect any bus fares for the last two months.’
Sadiq Khan's threat to cut services when they need to increase came as:
- Analysis of the UK's 'R' rate is published and shows a national divide with infection rates lowest in London at 0.4 - and much higher at 0.8 in the North of England and South West;
- Antibody test that shows with 100% accuracy who has had coronavirus and may be immune for three years is approved for use in the UK - but it is not fully known if Covid-19 immunity exists;
- Boris' Johnson's school reopening plans are in chaos as top scientific adviser admits there is 'low confidence' pupils cannot spread coronavirus;
- Nine out of ten UK firms shut down because of coronavirus believe they can restart again within three weeks;
Mr Khan also suggested that the PM is to blame for the congestion on the Tube this week after tearing up an agreement that people would return to work from this coming Monday and bringing it forward a week at two hours' notice.
Mr Khan told LBC: 'Many of our staff are shielding, self-isolating or ill. We got to a stage where plan that we worked out with the Department for Transport and from Monday May 18 we would increase Tube services to 75 per cent and ramp it up again in three weeks. And then on Sunday we were presented with a fait accompli. I was in a Cobra meeting two hours before where he [Boris Johnson] told us this was his plan’.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured in Downing Street in March) has launched an extraordinary attack on Boris Johnson and also warned he will cut Tube, train and bus services unless the PM agrees an emergency bailout by the end of today
Mr Khan said he found pictures of busy trains upsetting - but accused the PM of sending people back to work a week earlier than agreed
Pavements around London Bridge station were busy this morning as more and more people headed into work this week
The Mayor of London revealed that Tube passenger numbers are up 10 per cent today on last week – admitting that thousands more people were trying to get on trains. When asked about the shocking pictures of cramped carriages this morning he said: 'It's deeply upsetting. The reality is that every time somebody interacts with somebody on the street, in a shop or on a train it can increase the spread. That’s why we are urging people to stay at home’.
He also said employers should be taking responsibility for the lack of social distancing on public transport, by refusing to accept that ‘fear’ is a good reason not to come back to work. Mr Khan said: ‘Londoners are being told to return to work unless they have a good reason. I can understand when you're on a zero hours contract or your boss is telling you to get to work you may go in. That's why I’m imploring the Government to put pressure on employers to stagger the start to the day I don't want to undo the work’.
The Cabinet Office today refused to comment on claims that they had dropped their transport trends slide from the daily coronavirus press conference over recent weeks to hide the fact many more people were getting into their cars or taking public transport. A spokesman told MailOnline that the slides are online daily – and that are not always shown because ministers and health chiefs may want to ‘focus on other things’.
Tube bosses have put up station signs telling commuters to 'go home' unless they are key workers despite Boris Johnson telling millions of Britons to return to work, it was revealed today.
Transport for London's foreboding 'go home' messages came amid the growing row with Downing Street who insist trains must return to normal to revive the economy while the Mayor of London says that 'lockdown has not been lifted'.
It came as nine out of ten UK firms shut down because of coronavirus believe they can restart again within three weeks as millions returned to work for a second day today.
There were more grim scenes on the Tube and buses this morning as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its survey of 600 firms found that 70% had furloughed staff, showing how the job retention scheme had prevented redundancies.
Nine out of 10 of those questioned said they would need three weeks or less to reopen, as and when the Government eased restrictions, while three out of four firms have said they could implement social distancing measures and almost as many were confident of making provisions for remote working.
But there is increasing concerns about the lack of safe social distancing on public transport, especially in London where passenger numbers are up 7 per cent in a week. London Bridge station has seen a spike of 25 percent more people commuting in the past week while Waterloo is up 20 per cent, MailOnline understands.
One traveller who posted an image of a packed Tube carriage wrote sarcastically today: 'Social distancing going well on the London Underground this morning', while nurse Abbie Biddick tweeted an image of her journey on the Central Line and said: 'Every seat full and people stood no more than 10cm apart'.
Unions have repeatedly threatened to pull out drivers and station staff if the Tube system is overwhelmed.
RMT Union chief Mick Cash told Good Morning Britain: 'I don't feel that the way the government have handled this has meant we are operating the railways safely. You cannot have social distancing of two metres and have the crowded buses, tubes and trains we have at this time.
'We will see an increase in infections if the government don't get there act together and clear directions about how the buses, tubes and trains should operate. It's quite clear to us that its unsafe to operate a service if you can't keep a two metre distance. And that's what we said to our members, if it's not safe don't do it'.
Most firms can restart their business with up to three weeks' notice and are confident of implementing social distancing measures or remote working, new research by the British Chambers of Commerce suggests
Transport for London (TfL) said the number of passengers using the Tube between 4am and 10am on Wednesday was up by 7.3% compared with the same period last week.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been urged to get a grip and increase services immediately to ease the severe overcrowding, which has happened without a massive surge in passengers.
Around 230,000 journeys are expected on the Tube today - compared with 4million pre-lockdown - but there are not enough services to carry them safely, with waits of up to 20 minutes per train causing packed platforms and rammed carriages.
But businesses have said they will soon be ready to start up again.
BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall said: 'The job retention scheme has been successful in its aim to protect livelihoods and its extension will come as a huge help and a huge relief for businesses across the UK.
'The Government should continue to listen to business and evolve the scheme in line with what's happening on the ground. Further, phased support may yet be needed for companies who are unable to operate for an extended period, or those who face reduced capacity or demand due to ongoing restrictions.
'Government guidance signals big changes for the way that many businesses operate, and some firms will now need time to plan and speak to their employees so that they can return to work safely.
'Alongside this guidance, businesses urgently need clarity on the future of Government support schemes, which must be adapted to help those firms who need to remain closed for an extended period or face reduced capacity or demand.'
A Government spokesman said: 'It is fantastic to see so many firms ready to get back to work and fire up the engines of the economy.
'To ensure this happens safely we have published comprehensive guidance for a variety of different workplaces and welcome businesses supporting their staff to work at home.
'This remains a challenging period for businesses and so we have extended our Job Retention Scheme, which already supports more than 7.5 million jobs and almost a million businesses.
'Firms can also continue to draw upon the Government's business loan schemes, as well as the various grants and tax deferrals we have introduced.'
Initial data published on Wednesday indicated small increases in road traffic across the country, but concerns were raised about crowding on public transport in London.
There appeared to be no initial reports of an influx of visitors in beauty spots like the Lake District, with people now permitted to travel to the countryside alone or with members of their households.
Transport for London (TfL) said the number of passengers using the Tube between 4am and 10am on Wednesday was up by 7.3% compared with the same period last week - a rise equating to nearly 5,700 journeys.
An official spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there had been no 'significant' increase in travel on the capital's network.
Earlier in the day Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged people not to 'flood back' on to public transport, but the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union warned that the Government's back to work message was 'fraught with danger' amid reports of packed carriages.
Under the latest guidance, people who cannot work from home are encouraged to return to workplaces if it is safe to do so.
A manager at the quiet Waterloo station said that footfall throughout the coronavirus crisis had been around 5% of normal, and had risen to around 10% on Wednesday morning.
He said some 50,000 people per hour usually pass through the station during peak times in normal circumstances.
Out on the roads, data published by location technology firm TomTom showed that the level of congestion in the capital at 8am on Wednesday was 19%, up from 17% a week earlier.
Over the same period, Manchester saw an increase from 12% to 13%, Birmingham was stable at 11%, Newcastle congestion rose from 11% to 13% and Leeds from 13% to 14%.
England's national parks had already urged caution for visitors planning to return from Wednesday - with some still telling people to stay away.
Visitors were warned that many facilities such as car parks, visitor centres and public toilets, as well as cafes and pubs, are not yet open.
A Local Government Association (LGA) spokesman also said on Wednesday that local councils were reviewing car parking provision, but would 'balance this against avoiding the gathering of large crowds where social distancing will be difficult to maintain'.
Spokesmen for the Lake District, Peak District and Yorkshire Dales national parks suggested on Wednesday afternoon that it was too early to tell, or they were waiting to speak to rangers to see if visitor numbers had changed as lockdown measures eased.
But in the Lake District it appeared the 'stay away' request from local politicians and public officials was being heeded.
In Windermere, Bowness, Grassmere and Keswick, there was no influx of visitors to places popular with tourists, with shops, bars and restaurants all shuttered.
Locals suggested the situation may change at the weekend and as the days and weeks progress.
Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, has written to Mr Johnson calling for there to be a maximum limit on the number of miles people can drive for exercise to help stop a surge in people travelling to the Lake District from outside of Cumbria.
On Wednesday Mr Farron said: It's good to hear that today so many people are heeding the advice from Cumbria Police, Cumbria Tourism and local health officials to not travel to Cumbria.
'Of course, our main concern is what happens at the weekend.'
Colin Cox, Cumbria's Director of Public Health, said: 'I'd urge people to really consider whether a visit to the Lake District is the right thing to do at the current time.'
Malcolm Bell, chief executive of tourism body Visit Cornwall, said he had seen 'no noticeable surge' in visitors to the region on Wednesday.
'I think we've got to wait for the first sunny day,' he added, noting that conditions on Wednesday were 'not the greatest'.
Looking ahead to the weekend, he encouraged people to not travel more than an hour from their local area to enjoy the outdoors and avoid tourist 'hotspots'.
Meanwhile, the Canal and River Trust, which looks after 2,000 miles of UK waterways, announced it was lifting restrictions on boat owners visiting their boats.
But the charity said 'general navigation' was still not permitted, with only minimal travel for essential repairs or services allowed and those visiting boats should expect to return home the same day.
Highways England said people should continue to stay at home as much as possible, but urged those deciding to get in their cars for the first time in several weeks to do thorough checks to ensure they were roadworthy and safe.