Updated 12.35, 13.15
THE rules about public transport are being relaxed and the Prime Minister has told a news conference that anyone is welcome on board, although face coverings must still be worn.
As far as commuters are concerned, he told his audience: ‘It is not for government to decide how employers should run their companies.
‘What we are saying now is if employers think it would be better and more productive for employees to come to the office, and they can work in a safe way, there should be discussions between employers and employees and people should make decisions.’
He also outlined plans for more stringent lockdowns in ‘hotspot’ areas, with the possibility that the towns worst affected could be virtually sealed off for a while, but that he hopes the country will return to ‘significant’ normality by mid-November, with remaining restrictions eased ‘possibly for Christmas’.
Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith 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.’
Rail Delivery Group director of nations and regions Robert Nisbet 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.’
The RMT’s senior assistant general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Covid-19 is waging war against both lives and livelihoods but in recent days the government’s response has once again been mired in chaos, confusion and mixed messaging. Today we are seeking urgent talks with transport ministers to stress it is vital for the protection of jobs, the economy and our climate that any increase in public transport use must be both safe, sustainable and underpinned by a coherent national plan.’