Berlin starts to move again amid signs of 'lockdown fatigue' elsewhere

Our weekly mobility chart shows a clear trend: Some world cities are seeing increased movement even before lockdown restrictions are eased.

Berlin has seen the biggest increase in both public transport activity and in traffic congestion over the last fortnight.

Schools, museums, galleries, zoos, playgrounds and churches are expected to reopen in Germany on Monday for the first time since the lockdown started. Some shops have already re-opened ahead of the lockdown lift.

Chancellor Angela Merkel – who is riding a wave of popularity on the back of her country’s relative success in controlling the outbreak – has stressed that social distancing must continue, and that the restrictions would return in the event of a second wave.

Madrid, London and Moscow are also seeing small bumps in activity – although the change is slight and could be due to changes in local circumstances rather than a sign people are flouting rules.

International travel is, however, still stagnant. Ryanair and British Airways have both recently announced they are cutting jobs due to low sales, with Ryanair expecting passenger numbers to stay under pre-coronavirus crisis levels at least until summer 2022.

The Covid-19 lockdown: Tracking if, when and where the world starts moving again

Restrictions on international and national travel to slow the spread of the virus caused a dramatic fall in global traffic by road, sky and sea. But the picture is not uniform across the world. Some cities in the Far East have avoided a total lockdown and as such have been seeing patterns which are a little closer to the norm.

In order to track the latest situation, this graphic is fed by three key sources. We use Citymapper's mobility index to monitor public transport use, TomTom's live traffic index to measure road use, and summary data from FlightRadar24 to count the total number of commercial flights each day.

City transport index chart


 

 
 
 
 

Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.