So. London is not going to be locked down after all. Rumours had been circulating for a couple of days that the city was to shut down completely, with public transport closed and even restrictions on who could enter or leave it (although how exactly that would be enforced is anybody’s guess).
At this morning’s lobby briefing, however, a Downing Street spokesman finally clarified that the transport network would stay open, albeit with reduced services, and that there is “zero chance” of restrictions on travel into or out of the city. (More from Sky’s Sam Coates here.) Why the government allowed days of feverish speculation before offering this clarification – Policy still being decided? Trial balloon? Simple lack of competence? – is now a matter being fiercely debated in the back alleyways of media Twitter.
To be fair to the national government, it isn’t the only organisation whose communication strategy during this crisis has left a lot to be desired. Late last night – seriously late: after 11pm – Transport for London (TfL) announced its plans to reduce its services. These include reductions in bus services, the cancellation of the weekend night tube and, from tomorrow, the closure of the Waterloo & City line. Other services will be reduced in frequency from Monday.
But one thing stands out about its announcement: it also includes the temporary closure of 40 tube stations which don’t offer interchanges between lines. These are happening from today – yet weren’t announced until last night. Someone who commutes from, say, Redbridge to Pimlico may have woken up this morning and discovered that their journey was stuffed, and they didn’t know about it, because the announcement happened so late. I know everything’s a mess right now, but: this to me does not feel like the ideal communications strategy.