Construction industry warned it risks shut down over crowded public transport

Patrick Sawer
·2-min read
Crowds of commuters boarding trains at Canning Town station during England's third national lockdown
Crowds of commuters boarding trains at Canning Town station during England's third national lockdown

Construction firms have been warned they risk further lockdown measures if workers continue to crowd onto public transport to get to work.

The building sector has been allowed to stay open during the latest lockdown, but scenes of workers crowding onto Tube trains in London have raised fears over high risk of Covid infection.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has warned firms that the Department of Transport and Transport for London could impose further restrictions if they do not limit the number of workers using the network by adhering to staggered start and finish times.

Andy Mitchell, co-chair of the CLC, wrote: “There is a very real risk that if this situation does not improve and it is apparent that the overcrowding includes significant numbers from our industry then more direct action or restrictions could be imposed. You can imagine that this concern could last for some weeks, so it is vital that alternative modes of transport or travel times outside of this particular time are used.”

Commuters getting on a Jubilee Line Underground train at Canning Town station during the morning rush hour in London, as England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus continues.  - Victoria Jones/PA
Commuters getting on a Jubilee Line Underground train at Canning Town station during the morning rush hour in London, as England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus continues. - Victoria Jones/PA

Site operating procedures, published by the CLC since last year, already warn that if public transport is the only option for workers they should avoid travelling in the 5.45am-8.15am and 4pm-5.30pm peak periods.

Nick Dent, London Underground’s Director of Line Operations, urged construction firms and other employers to stagger shifts and limit their use of busy stations, such as Canning Town in East London.

"We are doing everything we can to help ensure those who need to travel for legally permitted reasons are able to do so in a safe way and maintain social distancing, as well as targeted communications to encourage people to travel at quiet times. We urge passengers to travel between 8.15am and 4pm and after 5.30pm on weekdays, which are significantly quieter times on the network," he said.

But some industry figures have called on the capital’s Congestion Charge to be lifted to allow a number of workers to avoid crowded tube trains and use cars to get to work.

One project manager working at two London construction sites said: “We’ve done a lot to make out sites safe, with distancing and staggered starts, but we need more tubes running at peak times to avoid people crowding together and we need something done about the Congestion Charge.”

The Department for Transport said it had contacted construction industry leaders asking them to introduce staggered shifts and help workers to avoid travelling at peak times.