Ensuring the network is cleaner than ever and keeps Londoners safe

10 July 2020
"We all want London to continue to get back on its feet, and TfL is fully focussed on supporting this as we strive to make sure that customers and staff are safe"
  • Initial independent monitoring finds all locations visited on the Underground to be absent of coronavirus, with further research planned
  • Trial of UV cleaning of escalator hand rails underway
  • TfL sets out simple steps passengers returning to the transport network can take to 'stay safe' as they travel

As shops, pubs, restaurants and other venues begin to open across London as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased, Transport for London's (TfL's) new Commissioner - Andy Byford - today saw some of the new measures underway to make the transport network cleaner than ever. 

Having just taken the helm of London's transport network, Byford joined the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander, to see deep cleaning work taking place at Southwark station ahead of its reopening on Monday. They saw some of the huge range of cleaning and hygiene measures that have been introduced across the transport network, which include:

  • Use of additional hospital-grade cleaning substances that kill viruses and bacteria on contact, and protect for up to 30 days.
  • Key interchanges being cleaned more frequently - including during the day.
  • All regular 'touch point' areas on buses, such as poles and doors, being wiped down with a strong disinfectant every day.

In addition to these measures, a trial is underway to use UV light to clean the handrails on escalators on the Tube network. The device, which could help supplement TfL's extensive anti-viral cleaning regime, is connected to the escalator handrail and uses its motion to power a UV bulb that breaks down surface contamination to sanitise the handrail. TfL is now assessing the benefits of the technology, which could be installed more widely in the future.

Alongside the return of service frequencies to near pre-pandemic levels, a huge range of other measures have been introduced to manage the flow of customers on the transport network to keep everyone safe. 

New signage, posters and platform stickers have been installed across the network, helping everyone to maintain social distancing. One-way systems and queuing arrangements will be in use wherever needed and 1,000 hand sanitising points have been installed across the TfL network.

Customers must also now wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth for their entire journey, including in stations, unless they are exempt. Customers should not be taking the masks off mid-journey and the police and TfL's enforcement officers are patrolling the transport network to ensure that everyone is following the rules, which are needed to help control the spread of the virus. 

Investigations conducted as part of independent research, which studied a number of locations across the Tube found them all to be free from coronavirus.  Academics from Imperial College undertook coronavirus testing at high frequency touch points, and in the air at Vauxhall, Pimlico and Victoria stations on 26 June as part of a larger study into the evolution of bacteria and fungi in the urban environment across the globe. This initial data set of 24 samples all came back negative of any coronavirus. TfL is now assessing what further research in this area might be useful in the future.

As customers continue to return to the network in larger numbers, TfL has also set out some simple tips to help everyone stay safe as they travel.

These include:

  • Travel at quieter times, and avoid travelling during the peak times of 05:45-08:15 and 16:00-17:30 if they can.  There is more available capacity outside of those times.
  • Wear a face covering. It is now mandatory to wear one that covers your nose and mouth for your entire journey, including in stations, unless you are exempt. These should not be removed mid-journey.
  • Stay alert to the latest Government advice. This includes continuing to work from home if you can and walking or cycling all or part of your journey if possible.
  • Wash or sanitise hands at the beginning and at the end of your journey and carry hand sanitiser with you if you can. A thousand hand santiser stations have been installed across the transport network.
  • Follow the social distancing signage and guidance now in place across the transport network, keeping your distance from other customers when you travel wherever possible. Travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow.

Andy Byford, London's Transport Commissioner, said: "A huge range of measures are in place across the transport network to ensure it is cleaner than ever, including the use of new hospital-grade substances, 1,000 hand sanitiser points, and a new trial of UV technology to sanitise hand rails. Other measures to keep people safe include social distancing signage and the mandatory wearing of face coverings.

"As customers continue to return in greater numbers as pandemic restrictions are gradually eased, there are some simple steps that everyone can take to ensure they stay safe. This includes travelling at quieter times, regular hand cleaning and staying alert to the latest Government advice.

"We all want London to continue to get back on its feet, and TfL is fully focussed on supporting this as we strive to make sure that customers and staff are safe." 

Heidi Alexander, London's Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: "I urge all Londoners who can work from home to continue to do so, to help free up space on public transport for others to travel safely and comfortably. We also need everyone who is able to wear a face covering to have it on for the duration of their journeys - just wearing it to get through the ticket barrier or to get on a bus is not enough. Equally, having it in your bag but not wearing it is no good to anyone.

"TfL is doing all it can to ensure the transport network is cleaner than ever before but we need all Londoners to do their bit to keep passengers and staff safe."

To make it easier for people to walk and cycle and prevent cars causing congestion, TfL and the Mayor continue to deliver the world-leading Streetspace for London programme - in partnership with London's boroughs - to create extra space for cycling and walking across the capital.

Temporary changes are being made to roads to support safe walking and cycling and enable social distancing. So far, 37 Streetspace schemes have been completed on the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN), creating 15,960m² of extra pedestrian space and around 15km of cycle lanes delivered across TfL and borough roads. TfL is working closely with boroughs across London to quickly deliver further schemes with more than £26m awarded to 31 boroughs for walking and cycling schemes.

TfL recently announced it will be expanding the Santander Cycles scheme to keep up with growing demand. Wednesday 24 June saw 51,938 Santander Cycle hires - the first time there has been more than 50,000 hires on a normal working day. TfL is making 1,700 more Santander Cycle bikes available, bringing the total to more than 14,000.  Eight new docking stations are also being installed this summer to ensure more people than ever have access to the bikes.

The number of cycle journeys made across London has dramatically increased in recent weeks, particularly at weekends as people cycling for leisure journeys.  The weekend of 20-21 June saw an increase of 151 per cent compared to the same weekend last year, with cycling across the week up by 26 per cent. 

TfL is now operating 94 per cent of peak weekday services on the Tube and 94 per cent of bus services. Southwark is one of seven Tube stations which will reopen on Monday 13 July, along with Hyde Park Corner, Arsenal, Kilburn Park, Swiss Cottage, Clapham South and Hampstead.

Notes to Editors:

  • Face covering exemptions include people who have trouble breathing, children under the age of eleven and anyone who finds it difficult to manage them correctly.  
  • To support those customers who are exempt from wearing a face covering, TfL has introduced an exemption card that customers can print off and carry with them or display on their phone, which they can show if they are asked why they aren't wearing one. This can be found at https://tfl.gov.uk/campaign/face-coverings?intcmp=63065
  • Customers are reminded to treat everyone with respect and compassion, and to understand that some people are unable to wear a face covering for medical reasons that may not be immediately obvious. Transport staff are not required to wear a face covering when they are not in public areas, including Tube and bus drivers when they are in the driver's cab, staff working in control centres or in maintenance areas.
  • TfL has been helping Londoners adjust to the new rules by temporarily distributing face coverings at targeted Tube and bus stations, as well as providing advice on how customers can make their own.  Since 8 June around 264,000 face coverings have been distributed during the morning peak.
  • People making journeys are urged to take the most direct route and avoid busy interchanges. Anyone travelling to a central London mainline station is asked to walk or cycle for the remainder of their journey if they can. 
  • TfL has also published a list of the busiest stations and bus areas to help people avoid hotspots and maintain social distancing. This can be found at tfl.gov.uk/status-updates/busiest-times-to-travel
  • Details on how to make a face covering can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-wear-and-make-a-cloth-face-covering/how-to-wear-and-make-a-cloth-face-covering