King’s Cross Station near deserted despite ramping up of rail capacity

King’s Cross Station, one of London’s busiest transport hubs, was almost deserted on Monday morning despite a drive to get more trains running to get Britain back to work.

Train companies are increasing services to 70% of standard timetable capacity, industry body the Rail Delivery group said.

But to enable social distancing, many services are running at just 10% of normal capacity and passengers are still being urged to avoid all non-essential travel.

Trains at Clapham Junction station, London, as train services increase as part of the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions
Trains at Clapham Junction station, London, as train services increase as part of the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions (Yui Mok/PA)

The King’s Cross concourse was dotted with stickers reading “Protect your NHS, stay 2M apart”, while regular announcements urged people to stick to social distancing measures.

There were many more staff on duty than travellers, as well as several police officers on patrol around the station and neighbouring St Pancras.

The few commuters waiting for trains were mostly pessimistic about how well everyone would be able to keep two metres apart once passenger numbers start to rise.

Many commuters fear passengers will not be able to stick to social distancing guidelines on public transport
Many commuters fear passengers will not be able to stick to social distancing guidelines on public transport (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Pc Jason Kelly, who was on his way to his home in north Hertfordshire after a night shift, said: “Up until a week ago, in the early morning there were only two people on the train.

“When they changed the lockdown last week that went up to about 30 or 40 people.”

He thought people would find it hard to remember social distancing guidelines.

“For some people it’s just like a normal day, people have got fed up with it (coronavirus), they’ve had enough,” he said.

Another police officer on his way home to Huntingdon said through a lot of the shutdown he had been the only one on the train.

“It’s been marvellous, but now everything is going back to normal,” he said.

Most passengers are wearing face coverings
Most passengers are wearing face coverings (Yui Mok/PA)

He said he did not feel unsafe but did not think other commuters would try and keep two metres apart.

“People can’t even (stick to social distancing) in the shops.

“That said, everyone has been very good on the Tube – everyone wears a mask and tries to sit far apart.”

Daniel Croft, 37, has been dividing his time between London, where he works as a security guard at Kensington Palace Gardens, and his home in Darlington, County Durham, throughout the shutdown.

He told the PA news agency: “The trains have been completely empty, even this last week – even the Tubes have been empty.”

A busy Tube train between East Ham and Upton Park
A busy Tube train between East Ham and Upton Park (RMT)

When asked if he thought people would try and maintain social distancing as commuter numbers rise, he said: “No – even if you walk through Hyde Park it is absolutely rammed, people don’t try and stay apart.”

Victor Stringer, 69, was more optimistic about travellers sticking to the guidance.

Mr Stringer, who manages a residential building of mostly older residents in Mayfair, spends four days a week in London and the rest of his time at home in Peterborough.

“It’s been so quiet, I could almost have realised my boyhood dream of riding upfront with the driver,” he said.

“The residents in the building I manage have been very frightened, that’s why I resolved to keep coming into work – I took a lot of stick about it from my scientist sister.”

Passengers try to observe social distancing at Clapham Junction station
Passengers try to observe social distancing at Clapham Junction station (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Stringer said he was pleased the lockdown was being lifted: “I want to see Britain get back to normal.

“The social distancing message does seem to be working – the busses are very busy but most people are trying very hard to give people space.”

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