Coronavirus: London transport workers 'dropping like flies'

Tom Edwards
Transport correspondent, London
@BBCTomEdwardson Twitter

Busy Central Line trainImage source, AFP
Image caption,
The Tube network has been hugely reduced with 40 stations shut and many services cut back

Images of London's rammed Tube carriages have been all over the media and there has been little chance for many key workers using the service to stay two metres away from others.

While the problem has eased slightly today, there is still overcrowding in places.

The mayor has blamed non-essential travel, aiming in particular at construction workers, but the government says Transport for London (TfL) should run more trains. (There is also disagreement over whether construction workers should be deemed essential - the mayor thinks they shouldn't).

That has led to an almighty row and the unions and transport workers have found themselves - for once - on the side of TfL management who say they can't run any more trains due to sickness.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Busy services have meant it is impossible at times for people to be two metres away from others

Numerous transport workers, critical staff themselves, have direct messaged me via Twitter and they are furious:

  • A TfL worker wrote: "It's not just drivers who are sick or isolating. It's station staff, signallers, admin, back office people, controllers, cleaners, all of us. Please let people know we're not immune to this virus and we don't want to be used in political point scoring!"
  • A Tube driver said: "We are attacked no matter what we do. Most of us have families and because people who should be in quarantine or practising social distancing aren't following guidelines we are being exposed to the virus even more. We are dropping like flies."
  • Another Tube driver told me: "We have 30 / 80 drivers off and half the managers. We are trying our best. We want to do more but we don't decide the service levels. We don't want to be driving packed trains of non essential workers. [I'm] very upset we are being blamed when we're putting our families at risk."
  • A member of station staff said: "Many are working overtime in dangerous conditions just to keep the stations open. [I've] normally no time for Sadiq but the government has gone too far."
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Sadiq Khan has called for Londoners "to do the right thing and stay at home"

There are questions about the use of the Night Tube drivers and whether they could be utilised more - I'm told they're not being used at the moment - but for Londoners the last thing they will want is a political row.

Transport workers do want to help but at the moment they feel wrongly vilified.