The boss of one of Britain’s biggest train and bus operators has bemoaned “contradictory” messages coming from Boris Johnson’s government over the safety of public transport.
Go-Ahead chief David Brown said it was incumbent on the Prime Minister to issue an unequivocal message that passengers did not face a heightened risk of catching coronavirus on buses and trains.
Mr Brown said a message needed to be “at the right time”, adding that it was “beyond his pay grade” to say whether that time was now.
“I think there have been slightly contradictory messages that we’ve had about public transport from different parts of the Government,” he said.
“In Singapore, they never said: ‘Don’t travel by public transport.’ They have said: ‘Travel by public transport safely’. The passenger numbers are at 75pc. They chose a different type of message.
“If you are telling people you can still go to the pub, it seems slightly strange to be telling people you can go by car and not by public transport.”
His remarks came as Go-Ahead, which runs Govia Thameslink, Southern and Southeastern rail services, posted better than expected annual results. The operator nudged into the red with pre-tax losses totalling £200,000 on £3.9bn of revenue, 6pc higher than the previous year.
Transport firms have been left frustrated by ministers’ reticence to promote public transport. However, with the Government tightening its grip on the industry with multi billion-pound subsidies, bosses have been afraid to speak out amid concerns that they could be biting the hand that feeds them.
Mr Brown voiced fears that without a major intervention on transport safety, Britons will increasingly use their cars over trains and buses.
“We cannot go back to a city clogged up with cars,” he said. “[And] you will not get London back working by people walking and cycling.”