Boris Johnson has told returning workers to stay safe by avoiding public transport and instead commute by walking or cycling.
The Prime Minister tonight gave the green light to Britons unable to work from home to start heading back to their offices from tomorrow.
But his back-to-work plan counts on people staying off Tubes, trains and buses where they risk becoming infected.
Addressing the nation from Downing Street, the PM said: ‘We want it to be safe for you to get to work.
‘So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.’
Rather, the PM encouraged people to commute by bike or on foot – or drive if this was not possible.
Yet this was rubbished as a non-starter for many workers whose only means of travel is public transport.
Labour’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband questioned: ‘The Prime Minister said tonight he wanted workers to avoid public transport and use cars, bicycles or walk to work but did not explain how. What if none of those are viable options?’
The Prime Minister used his televised address to the nation to urge those who cannot work from home to return to offices
Public transport should be avoided and people heading back to work should walk or cycle, Boris Johnson said tonight
The PM’s mass cycling drive has echoes of his stint as Mayor of London when he pioneered the use of bikes to travel across the capital.
Mr Johnson said: ‘When you do go to work, if possible do so by car or even better by walking or bicycle.’
It came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday announced a £2billion funding package to revamp the UK’s cycling infrastructure to encourage it as a means to commute.
But the scheme quickly began to unravel as Britons said it was infeasible for novice cyclists and people who live far afield.
While preventing the spread of the ‘devilish illness’ was front and centre of his plea to steer clear of public transport, the PM also said reduced capacity would physically stop more people using it.
He said: ‘Just as with workplaces, public transport operators will also be following COVID-secure standards.’
Strict social distancing measures would slash passenger capacity by 90 per cent.
Yet despite the reassurances, transport union bosses said they had ‘no confidence’ in the government to ease people back to work safely and urged their members to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.
Political rivals also lined up to slam Mr Johnson’s back-to-work blueprint following his road map tonight.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the announcement lacked ‘clarity and consensus’ while ‘effectively telling millions of people to go back to work tomorrow’ without clear guidelines.
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: ‘PM’s mess of a statement has caused more confusion than clarity, creating worrying uncertainty about the return to work & how safety will be assured, opening up divisions between the UK’s nations and displaying a complete lack of clarity about what activities are now allowable.’
Boris Johnson addressed the nation from Downing Street to sketch out a road map from lockdown
A graphic of how a London bus could look with 15 passengers spaced out for social distancing
Public transport usage has plummeted during the lockdown as businesses shutter and tell employees to work remotely.
Yet alarming scenes of crammed Tube carriages have persisted and feared to rise as the PM coaxes more people back to work.
Mick Cash, boss of the the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said that government ‘mixed messages’ could trigger a surge in passengers and have ‘lethal consequences’.
Rail services are set to be increased from May 18, but the RMT said that has been brought forward to Monday.
In a circular to members issued after a meeting of the union’s executive (NEC) on Sunday, the union said: ‘Your NEC today considered this matter and stated our total opposition to attempts by the rail industry and Government to impose changes in working practices from Monday May 11.
‘We had only previously agreed to take part in a process to discuss such changes which had been intended to commence and be implemented from Monday May 18.
‘Given the confusion and mixed messaging generated by the Government in recent days, RMT has no confidence in the ability of the Government to manage lockdown or its easing.
‘To be clear, no agreement has been made to change any working practices or social distancing arrangements from tomorrow.
‘Therefore if two-metre social distancing cannot be maintained we consider it to be unsafe and members have the legal right to use the worksafe process.
‘RMT will fully back any member who uses this process to ensure their safety.’
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘This trade union will not sit back while confused and conflicting messaging from the Government raises the prospect of a surge in passengers on our transport services, making a mockery of the social distancing rules with potentially lethal consequences.’
Mick Cash, boss of the the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said that government ‘mixed messages’ could trigger a surge in passengers and have ‘lethal consequences’
Throughout the lockdown, Britons have largely shunned public transport, but new figures reveal the number of people walking or driving is steadily rising.
The data show an 80 per cent drop in public transport usage since the UK government imposed lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19.
And, according to data from Apple Maps, that trend looks set to continue, with only a small rise in public transport use across the UK since late-March.
But while walking and driving figures are still down by around 50 per cent over the same period, the stats show a week-on-week rise since lockdown began.
The trend is reflected in three of the country’s biggest cities, London, Birmingham, and Manchester.
It comes as Britons were warned to prepare that tubes and train services may remain at just 10 per cent capacity for months due to coronavirus.
The warning was made as government chiefs unveiled a £2billion package of measures to boost cycling and walking to work.