The government's funding package for TfL consists of a mixture of grants and loans and includes looking to increase service levels as soon as possible and the reintroduction of fares.
Operators have been hit hard by the pandemic and are still faced with the headache of how best to provide the contracted services whilst protecting the health and safety of their valued workforce and of the travelling public.
There is an inherent tension between the 'safer transport guidance for operators' issued by the government on 12 May, and the terms of operators' contracts with TfL. For example, buses are required to serve all stops and pick up passengers. Is it the responsibility of the driver to prevent passengers boarding once the reduced capacity has been met? Is it the driver's responsibility to ensure passengers observe social distancing once they've boarded and spread out to enable others to board, or to prevent access to those who are visibly ill? Surely not, not least the risk to their safety in enforcing these measures. Further, what about disabled passengers and being able to make space for wheelchairs to board?
There continue to be ongoing discussions with staff and the unions to review and implement measures to safeguard health and safety.
The main issue at the moment is the increasing demand (by those commuters who have been instructed to return to work) for services which are still running on a reduced basis. However, even when services return to normal levels, with ever-increasing commuters the suggestion from the Transport Secretary is that there will only be space for 1 in 10 passengers. This will have a knock-on effect for business.
Wider messaging to avoid public transport is not the answer, not least that this encourages people to return to their cars which undermines all the progress made towards meeting climate change targets and making cities more green and efficient. It could also cripple an industry which is already under massive strain due to reduced fare income (fare rises are inevitable), and the increased costs for operators in running the services (taking account of the modification of vehicles and additional cleaning). Government bodies and the operators need to work together to find ways to rebuild public confidence.