Traffic on Britain's roads returns to 93% of pre-pandemic levels

Traffic on Britain’s roads returns to 93% of pre-pandemic levels while numbers using Tube and trains are at highest since first week of lockdown as private equity firm Carlyle orders staff going back to work NOT to take public transport

  • Public transport usage has been creeping up since restrictions were eased 
  • But carriages are still carrying less than a third of passengers typically seen  
  • Firms have dashed hopes of return to offices by letting staff work from home

Road traffic has almost fully bounced back to pre-pandemic levels while public transport passenger numbers are also steadily climbing, figures reveal. 

Government analysis recorded congestion last week hit 93 per cent of typical vehicle activity, after plummeting to as little as 23 per cent in April.   

Public transport usage has been creeping up since restrictions were eased, but carriages are still carrying less than a third of passengers prior to the pandemic.

Figures released by the Department for Transport show that footfall on both the Tube and National Rail has been hovering at around 30 per cent for the last few weeks – which had not been seen since March. 

But big businesses have punctured hopes of a quick return to pre-pandemic levels on public transport by allowing staff to continue operating remotely.

It emerged today that multi-billion pound private equity firm Carlyle has told its London staff to avoid public transport when commuting to the office, which it plans to reopen next month.

Public transport usage has been creeping up since restrictions were eased, but carriages are still carrying less than a third of passengers prior to the pandemic

Mobility trackers illustrate the rise in traffic on the roads around London, almost to pre-pandemic levels. Public transport is also climbing but is still struggling to match a full recovery

TomTom trackers shows that 

The company is also requiring anyone who uses public transport at the weekend to stay away from the office for two weeks, according to the Financial Times.

Coronavirus has sparked a shake-up in the modus operandi of many big corporations, which have allowed their staff to continue to work from home after it proved successful in lockdown.

Britain’s largest fund manager, Schroders, and Big Four accountancy firm PwC have both announced permanent changes where staff will combine working from home with occasional office work.

The reluctance of big businesses, many of which are headquartered in the capital where commuting by public transport is typically rife, to order staff back to offices is feared to see passenger numbers remain low. 

Boris Johnson has urged people to get back to work to help rescue the struggling high street (Oxford Street pictured)

Last Monday, which is the most recent day for recorded data, National Rail passenger numbers were 25 per cent and Tube numbers 28 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Current rail and Tube passenger numbers are much higher than the height of lockdown in April, when footfall tumbled to just four per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

But it has failed to match the recovery seen on the roads, which recorded congestion levels of 93 per cent last Monday. 

It came as a transport watchdog urged rail companies to freeze fares and offer discounts to encourage passengers back on to trains and ‘get Britain moving again’.

Transport Focus is demanding a radical shake-up of the ticketing system after alarming polling found two-thirds of pre-lockdown commuters would continue to work from home.

Birmingham: Driving has almost returned to pre-lockdown levels, but public transport has not reached the same heights

This should go ‘beyond a fares freeze, rather than the rise in line with RPI (Retail Price Index)’, which tomorrow is expected to hike next year’s ticket prices by more than one per cent. 

Drawing inspiration from the Government’s restaurant scheme, the watchdog has suggested a ‘Head Out to Help Out’ programme of cut-price deals and bundles.

The watchdog also called for an overhaul of season tickets, which it branded an outdated system to cater for ‘city gents in the last century’.

It urged rail firms to instead offer flexible packages for commuters returning part-time.    

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