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Romford key workers complain buses and trains are now ‘packed’ with commuters, despite lockdown rules

PUBLISHED: 12:00 06 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:33 06 May 2020

Ben Whiting took this photograph of people unable to stay two metres apart on a train from Romford to Liverpool Street.

Ben Whiting took this photograph of people unable to stay two metres apart on a train from Romford to Liverpool Street.

Ben Whiting

London Assembly member Keith Prince promises to raise Havering commuters’ complaints at City Hall

Keith Prince, London Assembly member for Havering and Redbridge, said he would raise residents' concerns with City Hall.Keith Prince, London Assembly member for Havering and Redbridge, said he would raise residents' concerns with City Hall.

Romford key workers say commuting is turning into a “nightmare”, with buses and trains becoming so crowded it is impossible to follow social distancing rules.

Keith Prince, Conservative London Assembly member for Havering and Redbridge, said he had already raised concerns with City Hall about packed public transport.

The Romford Recorder received numerous complaints just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the public to “contain their impatience” over lockdown, warning that complacency would risk another explosion of covid-19 cases.

One key worker said their 6.07am train from Harold Wood to Liverpool Street each morning was “rammed”.

Ben Whiting snapped this image of commuters sat within two metres of one another on the 174 bus route towards Romford station.Ben Whiting snapped this image of commuters sat within two metres of one another on the 174 bus route towards Romford station.

She added: “It’s like people forget there’s a lockdown on. No social distancing can happen on that train.”

She questioned whether everybody onboard should be using the trains, asking: “Where were these key workers three weeks ago, when they weren’t packed?”

A second key worker who travels daily between Harold Wood and Liverpool Street said passengers were squeezed in “like sardines once you get past Romford.”

She said it was so bad she had started driving to work instead.

Resident Tina Hogan said the 174 bus service (Harold Hill to Dagenham) was “getting busier and busier... Most of these travellers are elderly people trying to get into Romford and queue at Sainsbury’s or Asda, so they can go in at the 9am spot.”

Another reader, Ben Whiting, wrote in to say he too caught the 174 bus every day to Romford station, then the train to Liverpool Street.

He said: “They’re getting so busy. Bus this morning, at 6.20am, was so busy people were sitting next to each other – and the same on the train.

“If they kept the regular service up, it would mean more buses and trains, so there’d be less people on each service... The coronavirus will never stop and numbers won’t drop if we are all being forced onto one train instead of two or three.”

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Mr Prince said TFL was running the maximum number of services possible with the available staff. He said the latest figures showed tube journeys were down 94 per cent, with TFL running a 63pc service during peak hours.

But he said bus use was harder to measure as since they became free and people no longer had to tap in when they boarded.

He said: “Certainly, on the roads I have seen a significant increase. More and more people are bending the rules because it is very demanding and frustrating to be in lockdown.”

Supermarket worker Charlotte Savine, who travels by bus from Hornchurch to Rush Green, said that at the beginning of lockdown, the buses were very quiet.

But added: “Since the buses became free of charge, I’ve noticed the volume of commuters has doubled. I know my colleagues have noticed this too.”

A Romford bus driver agreed, saying: “I can confirm that they are definitely getting busier. Usually, the upper deck is generally social-distanced. However, the lower deck is very busy. Passengers appear to stay apart at the stops, but once on board they’re very cosy together.”

Commuter Katie Curtis said she caught four buses per day, of which three were typically “overcrowded” and all were too busy to observe social distancing.

She said the 499 service (Gallows Corner to Heath Park Estate) was “always packed” and the 498 to Brentwood was “always rammed”.

She added that both the 499 and 103 from Romford town centre in the evenings were “a nightmare”.

A teaching assistant said she estimated passenger numbers on the 128 bus route, from Romford to Claybury Broadway, had quadrupled since lockdown was first imposed.

Other complaints to the Recorder included crowding on the 252 bus route between Elm Park and Romford, trains from Gidea Park to Shenfield, and tube services on the Central, District, Circle and Hammersmith & City lines.

Mr Prince said his message to businesses asking staff to return was simple - please don’t.

“The trains are there for essential workers. That means people in the health service, firemen, train drivers – absolutely essential workers,” he said.

“They are not there for people who just want to go and visit their aunty, or for people that are going into a job that could be done from home.”


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