Has the big return to the office begun? Trains are busier on ‘Freedom Day’ than any other Monday in past 16 months… but rush-hour traffic remains same
- Trainline website reports more bookings for rail travel today than on any other Monday in last 16 months
- Tickets sold for this week are up 26 per cent on two months ago as Covid-19 restrictions lift in England
- It comes amid ‘pingdemic’ with an estimated 1.7million people now self-isolating, many due to NHS app
- Train operators suffering from staff shortages include West Midlands Railway and London Underground
Britain’s trains were today the busiest on a Monday since the pandemic began as workers commuted into the office and went on leisure journeys to celebrate Freedom Day – but road congestion remained unchanged.
The Trainline website reported more bookings for travel this Monday than any other Monday in the last 16 months, with tickets sold for this week up 26 per cent on two months ago as Covid-19 restrictions lifted in England.
The most popular station to travel to this week is London Euston, followed by Kings Cross, Edinburgh, Manchester Piccadilly, London Paddington, York, Liverpool Lime Street, Leeds, Newcastle and Birmingham New Street.
Face masks are no longer mandatory on trains in England, but Transport for London has made them compulsory for its services including the Underground, Overground and buses following a plea from Mayor Sadiq Khan.
It comes amid a ‘pingdemic’ with an estimated 1.7million people now self-isolating, many of whom have been pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app, which has been affecting staffing on train services on some routes.
Among the train companies affected by isolating staff in recent days have been West Midlands Railway which has warned of delays after its number of staff having to self-isolate has quadrupled in recent weeks.
Further to this, rush-hour commuters on the London Underground today faced delays on the Metropolitan and Central lines this morning due to a series of train cancellations after many drivers were pinged.
Congestion on the capital’s roads was at 41 per cent during rush-hour this morning – which was roughly in line with the 8am figure last Friday (40 per cent), according to data from location technology firm TomTom.
But it was also down on last Thursday (49 per cent), Wednesday (52 per cent) and Tuesday (48 per cent) – while it was also well below the peak congestion level on Saturday of 51 per cent at 1pm.
Commuters walk along a platform after arriving at London Bridge train station today during the morning rush hour
Commuters travel on a London Underground Jubilee line train towards Westminster at about 8.10am this morning
Commuters stand on board a Piccadilly line train on the London Underground this morning as they wait for the doors to close
Commuters walk across London Bridge this morning as the Government’s official working from home guidance is dropped
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan stands at Bond Street station on the London Underground today as the face mask rule remains
Congestion on the capital’s roads was at 41 per cent during rush-hour this morning – which was roughly in line with the 8am figure last Friday (40 per cent), according to TomTom. But it was also down on last Thursday (49 per cent), Wednesday (52 per cent) and Tuesday (48 per cent) – while it was also well below the peak congestion level on Saturday of 51 per cent at 1pm
The low congestion levels this morning suggest many Britons are still working from home despite the Government lifting its official working from home guidance today.
Emma Gibson, director of transport watchdog London TravelWatch, told MailOnline: ‘Many people returning to public transport as part of the final phase of unlocking will want to avoid busy routes and times.
‘So it’s really important that train companies and TfL provide the best possible, localised travel information about the busyness of their train or bus, so that people can make informed choices about when they feel most comfortable to travel.’
It comes as Boris Johnson appealed to people to exercise their new freedoms with caution as most mandatory lockdown restrictions in England are finally lifted.
Social-distancing rules which, in one form or another, have governed people’s lives for over a year finally ended this morning at one minute past midnight.
Face masks are no longer mandatory in shops and on public transport, limits on gathering have gone and the work from home guidance has ended.
Nightclubs, theatres and restaurants can fully reopen, while pubs are no longer restricted to table service only.
Commuters look at their phones on a Jubilee Line train at 8.50am in London this morning on so-called ‘Freedom Day’
Commuters stand on board a Jubilee line train at London Bright station this morning as Covid-19 rules are relaxed
Passengers travel on the Jubilee line this morning as masks remain mandatory on all Transport for London services
Commuters get on a Jubilee line train at 8.43am this morning at Canning Town station in East London
Commuters travel on the Jubilee line this morning as some Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed in England today
A busy platform at London Bridge station on the Jubilee line this morning on what has been dubbed ‘Freedom Day’
But with Covid-19 cases continuing to soar and renewed warnings about the pressure on the NHS, there was no mood of celebration in Government.
Mr Johnson is spending so-called ‘freedom day’ self-isolating at his official country residence at Chequers after being ‘pinged’ by NHS Test and Trace following a contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who subsequently tested positive for the virus.
Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who also met Mr Javid on Friday, initially tried to get round the requirement to quarantine by saying they would join a daily workplace testing programme being trialled by the Cabinet Office.
However they were forced into a hasty U-turn amid widespread public anger at their ‘special treatment’ while tens of thousands of people were being forced to miss work or school and stay home.
Mr Johnson will self-isolate until July 26, which will include the final Prime Minister’s Questions before the Commons goes into recess, and the two-year anniversary of him entering No 10, which is on Saturday.
With new cases of the virus already having passed the 50,000-a-day mark, some scientists have expressed concern at the ending of restrictions while the Delta variant is spreading so rapidly.
Meanwhile in Scotland, where restrictions have been eased but not lifted, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also emphasised the need for caution.
The whole of the country has dropped to the lowest level of its five-tier system with social-distancing reduced to just one metre, although face coverings remain mandatory in shops and on public transport.
Ms Sturgeon said talk in England of ‘freedom day’ was ‘not sensible’ and that it was important to ease up on restrictions gradually.
It follows a series of rule changes in Wales which came in on Saturday, while in Northern Ireland regulations are expected to ease from July 26.
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