Government agency encourages staff to drive instead of using public transport to avoid catching Covid

On the day that severe cuts to rail services come into force across Britain, a government agency is recommending employers provide “additional parking so staff can avoid using public transport”.

The advice is contained in a Acas webpage discussing steps when staff are concerned about catching coronavirus.

The Conciliation Service tells employers: “As well as following safe working guidelines, ways to help keep people safe could include additional parking where possible so they can avoid use public transportation.”

The recommendation from Acas – which is a body within the Business Department – comes at a time when passenger use has dropped to around half of pre-pandemic levels.

Many train operators have reduced train services from today, including on intercity routes from Birmingham and Manchester to London on the west coast of Avanti – where the pre-pandemic frequency of every 20 minutes has been reduced reduced to one departure per hour.

Rail operators are trying to bring reluctant passengers back by emphasizing rail transport safety. Avanti West Coast tells travellers: “We ventilate the trains to freshen the air. We thoroughly clean trains and stations.

“Face coverings are compulsory on public transport (including on board our Avanti West Coast services) and at stations, unless exempted.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group – representing rail operators and Network Rail – said: ‘Rail companies are working hard to ensure people can travel in confidence, with ventilation that freshens the air at least every six to nine minutes on the vast majority of trains, ongoing extra cleaning and the Alert Me service which provides journey updates.

“Encouraging commuters to travel by car is unnecessary, harms the environment now, and jeopardizes a just and green economic recovery from the long-term pandemic.”

In response, an Acas spokesperson said: “The government has advised staff to work from home if they can.

“If staff cannot work from home and are anxious about getting to work, employers should consider options that can reassure them.

“Employers could consider different working hours, which can help staff avoid traveling during peak public transport times when it is more likely to be congested.

“Bosses can also discuss the Covid safety measures implemented by the public transport industry to explore whether they will help reassure staff.

“If staff refuse to travel by public transport, other options employers can support include walking to work, cycling and additional parking if possible.”

Last year, the employers’ group, the CBI, made similar recommendations on avoiding public transport.

The confederation asked members to “consider providing alternative transportation where possible” for employees who “cannot adhere to social distancing guidelines by walking, running, cycling or driving to work”.

Taxpayers currently spend around £1m per hour to keep the National Railways running.