Steep rise in passenger numbers on Tube and bus as government encourages workers back to the office

Passengers wearing face masks on the Jubilee Line in London, as workers are being encouraged to return to their offices, with a Government PR blitz commencing this week reminding people about the efforts taken to make workplaces "Covid-secure".
Passengers on the Jubilee Line in London on Thursday Credit: PA

The number of passengers on the Tube and bus has risen steeply since last week as the government urges workers to get back to the office.

According to Transport for London, 650,000 passengers used the London Underground network on Thursday from the start of service until 10am. This was 17.2% higher than during the same period last week, but still 29.4% lower than the period last year. There were 760,000 bus journeys made. This was up 22.2% on last week, but 54.3% down on 2019. It comes as a government PR blitz sought to remind people about the efforts taken to make workplaces "Covid-secure".

Downing Street said adverts would be appearing this weekend, but denied there was any campaign to encourage employees back to the office.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “There has never been a ‘back to work’ campaign.

“As I talked about earlier in the week, we’ve been doing this press partnership campaign with regional and local media and that is sponsored content on a variety of topics to do with the coronavirus response.

“It is also looking at some sponsored content to reiterate and guide people to our guidance on returning safely to work.

“You can expect that content to be placed with our partners shortly.”

Face coverings are mandatory on public transport. Credit: PA

The Prime Minister’s spokesman added: “What you’ll see over the weekend is directing businesses towards the safer workplace guidance that is on (website) through some paid, own and other media channels which the Government has been using.”

He said the purpose was to ensure “more people can spend some of their time working from the office”.

The Cabinet Office has been running the “partnership” campaign since June, using local and regional media to produce “wraparounds” and other tools to get the Government’s Covid-19 messages across, said the spokesman.

Asked why the Government was not running a national “back to work” campaign, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “We are promoting how to make your workplace Covid-secure so more people can work from the office.

“What we’ve also done is change the guidance to give employers more discretion over how their employees can work safely.

“The PM does want to see people discussing their working arrangements with their employers.”