London Coronavirus Digest 25 March: Mayor says Tube ridership sharply down and seeks more help for renters

London Coronavirus Digest 25 March: Mayor says Tube ridership sharply down and seeks more help for renters

Today’s Downing Street press briefing covered nothing of specific relevance to London. Boris Johnson led it and he restated his characterisation of the COIV-19 crisis as “a national emergency” and again described government strategy as designed to “delay’, “slow and “reduce the spread” of the coronavirus. Londone politicians, though, have had plenty to say about the situation in capital, not least Sadiq Khan.

  • The Mayor started the day saying that TfL’s early morning data suggested Tube ridership was down by “an additional third” compared with yesterday and that bus travel was down by “an additional 20 per cent”. He again appealed to more Londoners to stay at home and repeated that “nearly a third of TfL’s staff are now off sick or self-isolating – including train drivers and crucial control centre staff.” He added: “Many of them have years of safety-critical training in order to run specific lines, so it is simply not possible to replace them with others”. This a further rebuttal of health secretary Matt Hancock’s view, expressed yesterday, that London Underground should be running a full service. TfL has also introduced queuing at ticket gates and 500 British Transport Police are now patrolling the network. But the PM said at PMQs today he believes a better Tube system could be run. What next?
  • There’s been a difference of opinion between London Assembly Labour Group leader Len Duvall and Conservative AM Shaun Bailey – who is also the Tories’ London Mayor candidate, of course – over the same issue. After called on Sadiq Khan to “restore tube services“, adopting the hashtag #HelpOurHeroes, Duvall invited him to “stop talking rubbish” because “you know very well it’s not true that TfL can run at full capacity right now”. Bailey has followed up by claiming “139 recently retired drivers and engineers” could be brought back and that night tube drivers and managers of the 40 stations temporarily closed could be redeployed. The Mayor’s morning message (see above) suggests he might not wholly agree, though BBC London’s Tom Edwards said this evening that some Night Tube drivers are to be asked to help out.
  • The Mayor has written to communities secretary Robert Jenrick seeking more benefit support for Londoners on low incomes who rent, saying it still “falls well short of what is required”. He has also expressed regret that measures recently introduced to prevent landlords evicting tenants for three months “simply extends notice periods and will not stop renters from losing their homes”. Jenrick recently wrote to the Mayor tersely rejecting aspects of his draft new London Plan and criticising his housing delivery record.
  • London City airport has announced that will close from this evening until the end of April. The BBC has more on this.
  • The Met have issued a warning about text messages from scammers claiming Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs wants to give you a COVID-19 related gift of £258. It contains a bogus link “to apply”. More here.

Photograph: Clapton Pond, E5.

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