London Underground could be run on 'Saturday or Sunday service' on weekdays as coronavirus cuts commuter numbers

London's Mayor Sadiq Khan said the tube network could be run on a "Saturday or Sunday service" during the week as the coronavirus outbreak takes hold in the capital.

Fewer commuters are using London's transport network, as employees are being encouraged to work from home.

Mr Khan told Good Morning Britain: "What we may do over the course of the next few days is go to a Saturday or Sunday service during the week and then maybe even scale that down even more over the course of the next few days and weeks."

He added that a "basic public transport service" is needed for frontline workers including medics, firefighters and police officers.

Many on social media noted how there were fewer using trains this week as commuters stayed at home.

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there had been “a drop-off” in commuters using trains by between 18 per cent and 20 per cent.

He said train companies would be allowed to cut services to avoid having "ghost trains" on the network.

Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "There’s no point running ghost trains any more than in running ghost planes, but those are conversations which are ongoing."

Train stations - including London Paddington - have been left empty in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: PA

He said he would meet with rail companies this week to discuss the challenges they are facing because of the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Shapps indicated rail firms could be freed from their timetable commitments to allow for reduced services.

Under franchise agreements, rail providers are required to deliver a minimum level of service in order to keep control of their lines.

The cabinet minister added: "We’re working with them all to see what it is we need to sustain them.

A sparsely-filled tube in west London, as commuters are urged to work from home. Credit: PA

"Obviously people still need to be able to travel, to an extent.

"Some of [the planning] is about how many trains are put on at any one time."

A spokesperson for Great Western Railway said there would be "no amendment as yet" and they would continue to operate all of their train services.

"The railway is a critical part of the UK’s infrastructure and even in the light of some of the latest advice from government, we will be relied upon to continue to help key workers in other sectors get to work so they can provide services critical to the day-to-day running of the country," the spokesperson added.

"Our responsibility is to continue to run a service that can relied upon at this time, however should we need to change the shape of services in due course we will keep customers fully informed."

Greater Anglia also said they were currently running a normal timetabled service.

While Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said "the rail industry is doing everything to support the nation."

"Our priority is ensuring that our services meet the needs of the country," he added.

"That means both keeping a close eye on demand and taking measures to ensure services can continue to run.

"Like everyone, our staff may be affected by coronavirus and this may limit our ability to operate a full service.

"At such times, we will protect the most important routes and services in order that vital freight and commuter trains keep moving."