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Thousands of transport workers in London to be furloughed from Monday

Tube journeys have fallen by 95% and bus use by 85% since last month’s lockdown, with people urged only to make essential journeys.

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Coronavirus hits Tube travel

Thousands of transport workers in London are to be furloughed under moves to address the huge financial impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

Transport for London (TfL) said 7,000 staff whose work has been reduced or paused will be affected from Monday.

TfL will be able to access funding from the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, saving the organisation an estimated £15.8 million every four weeks.

Tube journeys have fallen by 95% and bus use by 85% since last month’s lockdown, with people urged only to make essential journeys.

TfL said its main source of income has almost “disappeared”.

The Government’s scheme means TfL can access funding for 80% of the salary of furloughed staff up to a maximum of £2,500 a month, with the organisation making up the rest of salaries and continuing to pay pension contributions.

The affected staff – around a quarter of TfL’s workforce – will be placed on furlough for an initial period of three weeks.

London’s transport commissioner, Mike Brown said: “The transport network is crucial in the fight to tackle coronavirus and it will play a similarly vital role in supporting the country’s economy as it recovers from the pandemic.

“We have significantly cut our costs over recent years but nevertheless the success of encouraging the vast majority of people to stay at home has seen our main revenue, fares, reduce by 90%.

“We are now taking steps to use the Government’s Job Retention Scheme to further reduce our costs where work has been paused because of the virus, while at the same time supporting our staff financially.

“Our work with the Government about the support that we need are ongoing and are constructive. We hope for an urgent agreement so that we can continue to provide the city with the vital transport it needs now and going forward.”

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: “These are very challenging times for our transport networks, but it is absolutely the right thing to do to maintain social or physical distancing and for those who can stay at home to do so in our fight against coronavirus.

“We welcome TfL’s responsible approach to ensuring staff remain on full pay during this difficult period. We also welcome the introduction of better PPE, although this clearly needs to be kept under review.

“The importance of TfL to the successful running of London cannot be overstated. It is vital that adequate Government support is provided to ensure our key workers can get around.”

Finn Brennan, an official of the train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “Although we recognise that Tfl is doing the right thing by guaranteeing staff will receive 100% of salary, this demonstrates the urgent need for an agreement by central government to fund the shortfall created by the dramatic loss in passenger revenue.

“Government ministers have repeatedly called for Tfl to provide a full service on the Tube. It is impossible to do that if thousands of staff are not at work.”

Unite regional officer Simon McCartney said: “This situation has been on the cards for the last month and the news should act as a spur for the Government to provide a substantial financial package for TfL, not just in the short-term, but in the longer term. As the mayor indicates, it won’t be business as normal once the lockdown restrictions are eased.”

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