Data shows handful of workers now commuting into UK’s big cities while journeys to smaller towns pick up post-lockdown


PHONE data shows that Brits in big cities are reluctant to head back to the office.

New stats reveal that just one in eight Londoners are commuting into work compared to nearly 50 per cent in Basildon, as footfall in smaller towns picks up post-lockdown.

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According to new data from the Centre for Cities think tank, most employees aren’t heading back to offices despite the Prime Minister’s call to get Brits back into work.

The stats, reported by The Times, show that two thirds are anxious about returning to the office and a similar number want to continue working from home long after the pandemic ends.

And the preference to work at home has left central London looking like a ghost town – with once heaving tube stations and high streets now deserted.

Just 800 of the 6,000 staff at megabank Goldman Sachs have returned, while fewer than 2,000 of the 12,000 at JP Morgan have gone back.

The UK’s ten largest cities, including Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham, have seen between 12-14 per cent of staff return, as urban workers fear the possibility of contracting the virus on public transport.

But the story is different in Britain’s small towns, which the stats suggest are seeing a gradual return of workers to offices.

Basildon, in Essex, has seen 49 per cent of its staff return, while Mansfield and Blackburn have both seen 47 per cent return and Birkenhead has seen 40% return.

Andrew Carter, from the Centre for Cities, told The Times that the widespread choice to work from home could have damaging implications for the national economy.

He said: “Many office workers understandably will continue to work from home even as Covid-19 restrictions lift, and whilst this may well be the right decision for them as individuals, for the national economy the sum of these decisions will have a cost.

“City-centre shops, restaurants, pubs and cafés build their businesses around catering to weekday office workers.”

“So people working from home means job losses in the retail, hospitality and culture sectors.”

Worrying statistics from Britain’s rail services also suggest that employees are happier at home.

Train services are operating at just 16 per cent capacity, with Transport secretary Grant Shapps this morning reminding Brits that space was available on public transport and it was perfectly safe to use.

He told the BBC: “We are quite close to full capacity but the usage of public transport is way down.

We have been very careful to ask people not to flood back too quickly and they have not, and so we are seeing many cases of quite empty, for example, trains.

“There’s more capacity there, you can now return. Anyone, not just key workers, can use public transport.”

But the lack of commuters has been disastrous for Transport for London – who were forced to ask the government for a £1.6 billion bailout following a plunge in revenue after lockdown.

It comes as the Prime Minister pledged that the government would aim to have normal life resume by Christmas.

But Boris Johnson’s call to see workers get back to the office was challenged by the government’s Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance – who insisted working from home remained a perfectly sensible option for employees.

And Professor Chris Whitty echoed Vallance’s reluctance to see life return to normal, telling the Lords’ Science and Technology Committee yesterday that social distancing was likely to continue for a “prolonged period of time”.




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