Just as we were starting to think back, almost fondly, on our old face-in-armpit morning commutes, a new report has suggested it may be beneficial for TfL to raise the price of commuting at peak times to help people practice social-distancing.
As focus turns to a lockdown exit strategy, the report titled ‘Getting people back into work’ by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) says, in London, commuting by public transport is ‘by far the biggest issue’ with just over half of London workers commuting on buses and trains, compared to just one in eight workers in the rest of the UK.
Among the solutions set out by the IFS is a suggestion that the government could ‘alter the relative prices of different types of commutes’ such as ‘increase the relative price of commuting at peak times on the London tube and bus network.’ Other solutions include ‘encouraging working from home’ and changing the structure of working hours and shifts so workers can ‘spread their commutes more throughout the day’ given that usually 20 percent of London workers commute at 8.30am.
A leaked TfL report seen by the BBC, also says that the number of people allowed to use the tube could be extremely restricted as lockdown eases, warning that the number of passengers would need to decrease from the usual hundreds of thousands to just tens of thousands in order to maintain social distancing.
In response to the IFS report, a Mayor of London spokesperson said: ‘The Mayor has been clear that the easing of lockdown restrictions will pose serious challenges around maintaining social distancing, particularly in London with our high population density and busy public transport network.
‘City Hall and TfL continue to work closely with the government to understand how the restrictions may be lifted. This will dictate how many people can be safely carried on our services and the extent to which mitigating measures, including re-timing journeys to spread demand out of peak times and managing stations differently, will be needed.
‘Continued working at home for everyone where possible will be absolutely essential, alongside other major changes to people’s routines including staggered shift and opening hours, additional restrictions on the use of the public transport, and bold measures that ensure we get substantially more people walking and cycling.’
Missing your commute? TfL has released Zoom backgrounds so you can pretend you’re calling from the night bus.