Operators hope for commuter return as Plan B ends


Transport operators have welcomed the end of Plan B restrictions in England but London mayor Sadiq Khan has complained that removing the legal requirement to wear face coverings will create inconsistency.

Prime minister Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday that his government is no longer asking people to work from home and will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere once regulations lapse next week.

Face coverings are currently required by law in most indoor public places and on public transport in England.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group RDG, which represents rail companies. said it looks forward to welcoming passengers back once restrictions ease.

However, the RDG offered no commitment regarding the reinstatement of services, which are currently running to emergency timetables with frequency reduced even further because of the potential for staff shortages to cause disruption.

The spokesperson said: ‘So that passengers can travel with confidence we will monitor timetables closely, running services to fit changed travel patterns and ensuring that rail is an attractive choice.’

The Go-Ahead Group, which runs buses and trains across the country, also welcomed the announcement, which it said ‘will help bring bustle and vitality back to our towns and cities’.

Customer and commercial director Mark Anderson said: ‘Service levels on our buses and trains are increasing as colleague absence reduces, and we look forward to welcoming more customers back.'

The requirement to wear a face covering on Transport for London services is unaffected by the announcement.

Mr Khan said: ‘Wearing a face covering is one of the single most important and easiest things we can all do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the Government should rethink their plans and keep legislation in place to make them mandatory on public transport.

‘This ensures the rules are clear and consistent and crucially means enforcement action can continue to be carried out on our transport network. Compliance of the rules is far higher with legislation than without.’

The latest Department for Transport statistics for Great Britain as a whole show that passenger numbers on National Rail are currently at 53% of pre-pandemic levels, with usage of the Tube in London even lower at 46%. Bus use in the capital is at 71% of usual levels and slightly higher outside London at 72%.

Weekday car use nationally is at 86% of usual levels, but with commercial vehicle use higher than before the pandemic, overall traffic has now reached 91% of pre-COVID levels.

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