Commuters abandon public transport amid coronavirus panic

The hush hour! Commuters abandon London Tube amid coronavirus panic while Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is completely vacant as UK is in grips of deadly bug

  • Britain’s transport network appeared quieter than usual today as commuters avoided trains over virus fears 
  • One Manchester commuter told MailOnline this morning:  ‘I wasn’t close to other people and deliberately so’
  • While another in Birmingham spoke of ’empty trains’ as they warned of a ‘a tough couple of months’ ahead 
  • A Transport for London boss revealed there had been a two per cent decline in passenger numbers last week
  • Heathrow Airport looked almost empty as it was revealed there has been a year-on-year decline in numbers

There was a visible impact on Britain’s transport network today as coronavirus caused terrified Britons to abandon their usual travel plans. 

The London Underground appeared markedly less busy as more people opt to work from home in a desperate bid to avoid coming into contact with the deadly disease. 

Elsewhere, Heathrow Airport looked almost empty as it was revealed there has been a 4.8 per cent year-on-year decline in passenger numbers in February due to the virus. 

In Birmingham, ‘worried’ commuters spoke of ’empty trains’ and ‘cancelled meetings’ as they warned of a ‘a tough couple of months’ ahead. 

And in Manchester, train passengers spoke of quieter carriages and the measures they have chosen to avoid catching the virus, as one revealed: ‘I wasn’t close to other people and deliberately so.’

It comes as a Transport for London boss revealed there had been a two per cent decline in passenger numbers across the network last week due to fears over the virus.

So far, 456 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, up from 373 on Tuesday and eight people have died as cases continue to rocket across the country.

Heathrow Airport looked almost empty this morning as it was revealed there has been a 4.8 per cent year-on-year decline in passenger numbers in February due to the virus

The London Underground also looked markedly quieter today as a Transport for London boss revealed there had been a two per cent decline in passenger numbers across the network last week due to fears over the virus

There were a noticeably smaller number of passengers arriving at Gatwick Airport today as panic over coronavirus spreads across Britain

The usually packed Bank station appeared less busy that usual this morning as commuters appear to be avoiding public transport

Streets were quiet in central London this morning as fears around coronavirus spread across the UK.  So far, 456 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, up from 373 on Tuesday

The UK death toll hit eight yesterday, and experts are increasingly bracing for turmoil as the overwhelming majority of the population becomes infected and the country develops ‘herd immunity’ (pictured, Heathrow Airport terminal 5 looking empty today) 

Arrivals at Heathrow Airport appeared quieter than usual this morning as coronavirus fears grip the nation. It comes as Boris Johnson is set to defy demands for an immediate shutdown of schools and borders

The stairs at St Paul’s London Underground station appeared quit today as more and more Britons opt to work from home amid the coronavirus outbreak

The London Underground appeared quiet today as cases of coronavirus continue to rocket across the country today

Coronavirus was yesterday declared as a pandemic for the World Health Organization and shoppers around the world are stocking up on essentials as Britons appear to be avoiding public transport

The usually busting City of London appeared quieter than usual today as coronavirus fears spread across the country

The UK government is not currently telling people to avoid public transport and Chancellor Rishi Sunak said today there is not currently the evidence to suggest that imposing travel bans will have any effect.

But panicked commuters have spoken of taking transport in the midst of the outbreak with some saying they’ve taken extra measures to ensure they don’t catch the virus. 

At Manchester Piccadilly Station today Denise Stow-Williamson, 69, from Bolton, who volunteers at a telephone helpline said trains were less busy than usual. 

‘I would say the train was a bit more quiet than normal, we had no choice but to sit next to people,’ she said. ‘I noticed on the bus coming from where I live people were a bit more separated. I have not got a choice.’

Debs Mccahon, 46, from Bottesford, who works in children’s charity, said: ‘I come here once a month for work. It seemed quieter than normal, people just get on with it their own business.’ 

She added: ‘I wasn’t close to other people and deliberately so.’ 

Others said they were trying to keep calm amidst the outbreak. Brian Sumner, 59, from Alderley Edge, who is retired, said: ‘I come to Manchester once every two weeks. I am retired, I am having a lunch here with a friend who is coming from Leeds. 

‘I do not always take that train but it wasn’t busy. The risk is worth taking, keep calm and carry on.’ 

The City of London was less busy than usual today (pictured, Cannon Street Station this morning). It is expected more people are working from home due to the spread of coronavirus in the UK

The entrance to Manchester Piccadilly today as Boris Johnson is expected to move to the delay phase of tackling the UK spread of Covid-19 as Ireland announced the closure of schools and tourist attractions

Birmingham New Street today as UK coronavirus stand at 460 and there have been eight deaths in British hospitals

Manchester Piccadilly today as it was revealed the Prime Minister might bring in social distancing measures to restrict public gatherings and issuing more widespread advice to stay at home

The FTSE 100 index of leading London-listed companies fell more than 5 per cent in early trading following the World Health Organisation’s declaration of a pandemic (pictured the City of London today)

Some commuters wore face masks on the London Underground today as coronavirus fears spread across the UK

The City of London was less busy than usual today (pictured Cannon Street Station). It is expected more people are working from home due to the spread of coronavirus in the UK

Some travellers arriving at Gatwick Airport today wore face masks as concerns over coronavirus spread across the UK

So far, 456 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, up from 373 on Tuesday – the largest daily jump – and eight people have died as the World Health Organisation declares the virus a pandemic

While Jacqui Grainger, 46, from Preston, a manager at Vision Express said: ‘I normally do not come, or was just a one off. I’ve come to go shopping. I am not worried, the train wasn’t too bad. I am just taking them risk and keeping clean and washing my hands.’

In London TfL has launched an ‘enhanced cleaning regime’ in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Additional substances which kill viruses and bacteria are being used across the London Underground and bus networks, the transport body announced.

The busiest stations will be cleaned more regularly than usual, including during the day.

Bus parts which are regularly touched – such as poles and doors – will be wiped down with a strong disinfectant every day. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘I’m doing all I can to work with Public Health England and other experts to keep Londoners safe so I’m pleased that TfL is stepping up enhanced cleaning across the transport network.

‘Along with trialling new longer lasting cleaning fluid, this will help reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.

‘I want to reassure Londoners and visitors that the advice from experts is to continue with our daily lives as normal, including using public transport.’

Heathrow airport terminal 5 looked empty today amid coronavirus fears. In the UK cases stand at 460 and there have been eight deaths in British hospitals

A lone cleaning machine stands in an empty terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport today as coronavirus cases spread across the UK

Passengers preparing to depart from Stansted airport in Essex this morning

A sign at London’s Heathrow Airport today warning passengers to be aware of coronavirus symptoms

Heathrow airport terminal 5 looking empty today

A quiet Manchester Piccadilly Station today amid coronavirus fears

Some commuters in Birmingham New Street Station today wore face masks

With the Coronavirus spreading and extra measures being put in place to slow the spread (pictured, Birmingham New Street today)

And at Heathrow, the airport warned that demand has continued to weaken in March.  

The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: ‘The threat of coronavirus is an increasing challenge for the UK and we are working day and night to ensure Britain’s front door is open and safe for our people and passengers.

‘We will continue to work with the Government to limit the impacts this will have on UK plc.’    

At Birmingham New Street today a few worried travellers could be seen wearing masks while others had pulled their scarves up to their noses. 

Toby Darbyshire,36, a father-of-two, who works a sales manager for a drinking company and his job involves a lot of travelling, had to cancel his trip to London today due to coronavirus concerns.

He said: ‘I travel all over the country and my job involves going into pubs and talk to a lot of people. I have been told to minimise non- business related travelling- I had to cancel a meeting with a client today.

‘I am trying to take preventative measures as much as I can, I always carry hand sanitizer and wash my hands. I’m diligent.

‘My job is quite mobile and I need to touch things and shake peoples hands so I am trying to be responsible, I have two kids.

‘I went to Glasgow on Monday and I noticed although all the seats were booked, the train was half empty.

‘I can see how businesses are going to get affected. People are not risking to go into the pubs anymore but the businesses still have rent and bills to pay. It’s going to be a tough couple of months’.

Ryan Patterson ,29, who works as a plumber has to travel daily for work and was on his way Cheltenham festival.

He said: ‘There are definitely less people travelling, I get the train every day and I noticed. I have seen people wearing masks and using hand sanitizers, they are more cautious.

The London Underground today with some commuters wearing masks whilst others ignore the warnings

Travel on the Underground appeared less busy than usual today amid coronavirus fears

Bank Station in central London today amid coronavirus fears. Should the UK move to delay today it would mean social distancing measures could be brought in, such as restricting public gatherings and issuing advice to stay at home

Some arriving at Gatwick Airport wore masks to protect themselves from coronavirus 

Passengers arriving from Rome at Gatwick Airport today as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country

The District Line today as coronavirus cases spread across the UK. Some wore masks in a bid to protect themselves from the virus

In the UK, the PM is holding an emergency Cobra meeting where ministers are expected to agree to move into the ‘delay’ stage of the process (pictured, stairs on the London Underground today)


Ryan Patterson in Birmingham New Street Station on his way to the Cheltenham Festival of horse racing. Denise Stow-Williamson, 69, talks about Coronavirus worries on trains to Manchester Piccadilly

A quiet Manchester Piccadilly Station this morning

Heathrow airport Terminal 5 looked empty today as coronavirus hits airlines across the world

Heathrow Airport looked almost empty as it was revealed there has been a 4.8 per cent year-on-year decline in passenger numbers in February due to the virus

John Patience, 65, works for oil and gas company and his job involves a lot of travelling.

He said: ‘I travel often because of my job , I don’t really have a choice. I noticed yesterday at the Cheltenham station they have put hand sanitizer too.

‘I think People on the train are more aware of the situation and are more careful. ‘

Zairb Griffiths, 24, travels roughly every two weeks. He said: ‘I have noticed though less people in the shops.

‘On the trains there are a few people more careful and protecting themselves’.

Student of Birmingham City Sophie Collins,22, said she is very concealed about coronavirus as she was applying hand gel to her hands.

She said: ‘ I am very worried, I wash my hands all the time, use hand gel and disinfect my phone.

‘I use the train every day and I see people doing the same- I can’t say people are travelling less but it’s obvious there is a general concern.

‘My course finishes in two weeks but if I had the option I wouldn’t travel at all.’ 

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said it could see a reduction in passenger numbers but added it was too early to release any specific figures.

Passengers travelling across Britain have certainly noticed reduced numbers however.     

Several of those arriving at Gatwick Airport today wore face masks as they arrived back in the country

Commuters in Birmingham New Street Station today as cases of coronavirus spread across the UK

Travellers wore face masks as they arrived at Heathrow Airport this morning. The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: ‘The threat of coronavirus is an increasing challenge for the UK’

Bank Station in central London today as No10 dismissed suggestions they will emulate Ireland, which announced this morning that it will close all schools and colleges – although the step is being kept in the locker in case the situation escalates

Passengers arrive at Gatwick Airport today amid a rise in coronavirus cases across the United Kingdom today

Passengers preparing to depart from Stansted airport in Essex this morning

Alison Thiafall, 54, a mother of two, travels regularly and said she wanted a lockdown instigated as soon as possible.

She said: ‘I would self-isolate if I had it and probably avoid seeing my mother and father. I check the government updated and I think we will be on lockdown soon- at least we should.

‘We should be in lockdown, clean everything and contain it that way but we have to wait for now.’ 

Rebecca Hartley, 39 , an HR director is on maternity leave and was about to travel with her 6 mo old baby Alex.

She said : ‘I am not overly cautious I probably should have. I wash my hands but there’s not much else I can do.

‘The trains are very quiet these days and I have seen a few people wearing masks.

‘We are two weeks behind Italy so I think it is going to peak eventually and we will be in lockdown probably closer to the Easter holidays.

‘I am trying to be sensible and not travel if not necessary, I have two kids’.

Britain’s quieter transport network comes as Boris Johnson is today set to defy demands for an immediate shutdown of schools and borders as the UK admits it can only ‘delay’ mass spread of coronavirus to avoid being swamped with cases. 

No10 has also dismissed suggestions they will emulate Ireland, which announced this morning that it will close all schools and colleges – although the step is being kept in the locker in case the situation escalates.

In the first sign of splits within the UK, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today declared that she is ‘minded’ to cancel mass gatherings of over 500 people from the start of next week.

The government has also made clear it will not follow Donald Trump’s dramatic overnight move of closing the borders to travellers from mainland Europe.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who yesterday unveiled a huge £30billion Budget package to ‘vaccinate’ the economy from the impact of coronavirus, today said the UK was not following the US example.

‘The advice we are getting is that there is not evidence that interventions like closing borders or travel bans are going to have a material effect on the spread of the infections,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘That is why we have taken the decisions that we have.’

Asked whether the PM knew of Mr Trump’s escalation in advance, Downing Street said today: ‘UK and US officials are in regular contact.

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