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Keeping safe whilst using public transport in a post Covid-19 world

social distancing on public transport

There are major concerns about how the increasing use of public transport might negatively affect the UK’s fight against COVID-19.

With thousands of active cases, and many of them potentially asymptomatic, being in proximity with thousands of strangers runs the risk of increasing the spread of an airborne pathogen.

The reason this is so problematic is the sheer size of transport operations across Britain.

UK Transport Systems

In the South East of England alone, over 3.75 million people used public transport each day in 2019. With major stations like Paddington, London Bridge or Charing Cross having a constant footfall of thousands.

In fact, in a study from a few years ago, it was estimated that over 40% of people travelling on the London Underground during 8am and 9am had to stand because the buses and train carriages were so busy.

About 320,000 people boarded every 15 minutes during the 8am weekday peak in February 2020, prior to the coronavirus restrictions taking effect.

Imposing even 1 metre social distancing in these circumstances would reduce that capacity to about 80,000 passengers every 15 minutes.

However, the country cannot remain closed indefinitely. The central business hubs of UK Plc have to reopen at some point. People need to go back to work.

So, what measures can passengers take to make commuting to work a safe option and reduce the risk of a second spike in cases?

Preventative actions passengers should take

Nothing can be done unless everyone is actively participating. Here’s what passengers can do to help mitigate the risks of travelling on public transport during COVID-19 for themselves and others around them.

First, only travel when you absolutely have to. If you can work from home, work from home.

For many, this isn’t an option. So, the following guidelines are being applied, broadly speaking, from here all the way to New Zealand.

  1. Try and keep a distance of 1-2m from people you don’t know
  2. Plan your journey ahead and avoid peak time when possible
  3. While onboard, follow signage about where you can sit, and avoid sitting next to someone you don’t know
  4. Follow the guidance of the driver, crew and operators
  5. Stay calm, be kind and play it safe
  6. You can sit next to people you do know
  7. Practice good hygiene all the time – disinfect your hands often, sneeze or cough into your elbow
  8. Finally, keep track of your journey – including where you’re sitting if possible

This final point is an integral part of the successful reopening programs of places like South Korea and New Zealand.

To begin with, in the UK this involves you manually keeping track of where you have been and when. If you are tested positive for COVID-19 the government can then backtrack to find everyone you have come into contact with. There are, however, apps which will be released to make this process less manual and more efficient.

You can learn more about contact tracing in the UK here.

Passengers should be informed to err on the side of caution and, if they are showing any signs or symptoms that could be COVID-19, (such as a cough, sore throat, general weakness and fatigue) then they should avoid travelling.

Cleaning Standards on Public Transport Vehicles

The UK’s transport networks have introduced a stricter cleaning regime across their networks earlier this year. This enhanced cleaning regiment includes the use of additional hospital-grade cleaning substances and increased cleaning of key interchanges and high touch surfaces.

Here at Chela, we provide a comprehensive range of cleaning products that are widely used across the UK’s transport networks.

These products aim to increase presentation standards as well as improve the health and safety standards for both staff and passengers.

See our full range of industrial strength disinfectant solutions