The number of people falling on London’s Tube escalators is on the rise as passengers appear “hesitant” about holding handrails because they are worried they may catch Covid.
Transport for London (TfL) bosses have also blamed “intoxicated” revellers for a recent increase in tumbles, as people have headed out to celebrate the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
Between April and June, 12 people were reported to have died or suffered serious injuries on the Tube, while 23 incidents were recorded on buses in the capital — up from the same three-month period last year.
Andy Lord, managing director of London Underground, said falls on escalators were “our biggest risk from a passenger injury perspective”.
Londoners appear wary of grabbing handrails to steady themselves amid worries they could catch the coronavirus.
Mr Lord insisted the Underground is thoroughly cleaned and safe for passengers to use.
He said staff have noticed customers’ “hesitancy holding the hand rail”, which they believe is to blame for falls.
He said some incidents have occurred with elderly people attempting to place suitcases on the escalator without holding on to the rail.
Mr Lord said: “Two of the biggest risks we have are falls on escalators caused by people failing to hold the hand rail.
“There is an issue with the perception that the hand rail is not clean because of the pandemic.
“We are spending a huge amount of time and money and resources cleaning the hand rail, as well as the UV cleaners that are being steadily rolled out across the entire network. We are looking at what further communications we can do to raise awareness of that.”
Last year TfL launched a trial that saw Covid-bursting ultraviolet light devices attached to rails in a bid to stamp out the virus.
The transport body plans to extend the trial as millions head back to their workplaces and schools.
A spokesman for the network said the Covid-bursting devices had been fitted to 93 escalators and a further 340 units are set to be installed in stations across the city before the end of the year.
Imperial College London has carried out multiple surveys and none has found traces of the infection on the underground.
Mr Lord said alcohol is also playing a part in the rising number of falls, particularly towards the end of the week.
He said: “The other bigger issue is intoxication.
“We have seen a spike as the various stages of lockdown have been reduced, with particular spikes initially on Thursday and Friday evenings and then weekends.”
A report to TfL’s safety committee said: “The number of people killed or injured has increased with the return of customers to the network.
“The rate of injuries which happened on stairs and escalators have remained relatively high. There has also been a slight uplift in the rate of injuries with intoxication a factor.”