PM ushers in return to public transport

 

The prime minister has said everyone in England may use public transport again from today, and given employers the discretion to bring back the daily commute from 1 August.

In a speech from Number 10, Boris Johnson said: 'In England from today, we are making clear that anybody may use public transport while encourgaing people to consider using alternative means of transport where they are available.'

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He also revealed that advice for employers would change from 1 August and that 'instead of government telling people to work from home we are going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely'.

This could mean continuing working from home or it could mean employers asking staff to come back to work, after consulting with employees and making sure work places are safe by following COVID-secure guidelines.

He also revealed new sweeping powers for councils to introduce local lockdowns and annoucned that government would release draft regulations for central government to step in where needed and close down public transport systems.

'From tomorrow local authorities will have new powers in their areas. They will be able to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces and cancel events. These powers will enable local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount,' he said.

'Action by local councils will not always be sufficient so next week we will publish draft regulations, which clearly set out how central government can intervene more effectively at a local level.

'Where justfified by the evidence ministers will be able close whole sectors or types of premises in an area, introduce local stay at home orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the maxmimum size of gatherings beyond national rules or restrict transport systems serving local areas.'

The PM added he was 'hoping for the best and planning for the worst', as he hoped the country would return to a sense of normality 'from November at the earliest - possibly in time for Christmas'.

Devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the power to set their own timings for the easing of restrictions.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: 'This is good news for people who want to catch a bus, train or tram in England. The message for England is clear: you can now use public transport, but you must still wear a face covering unless exempt, follow the rules on social distancing and avoid the busiest times if you can.

'As the economy reopens and people start thinking about travelling again, it is important to be clear that you can now use public transport even if you have an alternative. However, big hurdles remain before there is a mass return to office working as our research shows: people have got used to working from home, still have concerns about safety and the price might still put them off.'

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies, said: 'The railway is vital to economic recovery and train companies will play their part by helping people travel safely.

'As part of our safer travel pledge we are adding more trains, improving journey information and boosting cleaning, while asking passengers to travel at quieter times and wear a face covering.'

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