Easing of Covid rules leads to surge in car and Tube use

Car use and London Underground passenger numbers reached pandemic highs after the latest easing in coronavirus rules, new figures show.

The number of cars on Britain’s roads was at 96% of pre-pandemic levels on Monday, according to Department for Transport (DfT) data.

That has only been matched on that day of the week during the coronavirus crisis on June 1.

Passenger numbers on the London Underground reached 47% of pre-virus levels on Monday, beating the previous pandemic high for a Monday of 44% set on June 1.

The requirement for people to isolate if they come into contact with someone who tests positive for the virus was dropped for fully vaccinated people in England on Monday.

RAC head of road policy Nicholas Lyes said: “The further easing of Covid restrictions, combined with the summer holidays being in full swing, has led to traffic volumes getting back to pre-pandemic levels.

“Government data for last weekend shows car traffic exceeded levels last seen in February 2020 as drivers shun complicated rules on foreign travel and take to the roads for their summer breaks and day trips.

“With the roads so busy this summer due to 29 million planned staycation car trips, we strongly encourage drivers to make sure their vehicles are road-ready by carrying out basic checks before setting off to reduce the chances of an unwanted breakdown occurring.

“Checking tyre pressure and tread is vital while topping up oil and coolant levels, where required, can make a big difference.

“For additional peace of mind ahead of a long journey, drivers should also consider getting their cars serviced.”

The DfT figures also show that bus use in Britain excluding London was at 57% of pre-pandemic levels on Monday, while the latest data for mainline rail services across Britain shows it was at 56%.

Paul Tuohy, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, issued a warning about how demand for public transport is lagging behind car usage.

He told the PA news agency: “The Government needs to do more to encourage people back to public transport to boost the economy, prevent gridlock on our roads, reduce air pollution and help tackle climate change.

“Freezing rail fares is a good place to start, but passengers need the long-promised overhaul of the whole fares system as soon as possible.”