Retired Tube drivers should come back to work to keep the Underground running during the coronavirus outbreak, a London Mayoral candidate has said.
Conservative Shaun Bailey said recently retired workers could relieve pressure on Transport for London (TfL) as more staff are forced to take time off sick.
The London Assembly member estimates from TfL figures at least 139 Tube drivers and engineers have retired since 2016/17.
He is also calling for London’s 85 Night Tube drivers to start working day shifts while night services remain cancelled.
He says returning staff could be paid time-and-a-half based on their salary at retirement, to encourage them to help out.
Mr Bailey said: “We owe it to the heroes working in our NHS, and other key workers to ensure that their journey into work is as safe as possible.
“Right now, packed out trains because of a reduced Tube service is endangering the people we need to protect the most.”
He added: “At a time when recently retired medical staff are coming out of retirement to serve our NHS, I know recently retired TfL staff will be champing at the bit to help in any way they can.
“We need to ensure we are protecting those who are working the hardest to protect us.”
TfL is now running a reduced service on the Tube, with as few as three trains an hour during off peak.
The Circle and Waterloo & City lines are suspended, and buses are running a weekend service.
Sadiq Khan said this morning that almost a third of staff on the network are now ill or self-isolating because of coronavirus.
He said if more staff become sick, TfL could be forced to cut timetables further.
But the Mayor has faced criticism from the Prime Minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who say more trains should be running to allow key workers to social distance on their commutes.
Underground travel is down more than 88% on last year, with bus journies down more than 76%.
But some passengers are still reporting dangerously crowded transport – which increases the risk of spreading the virus.
A spokesperson for the Mayor said TfL was trying to recruit retired staff “wherever possible” – but getting Tube drivers back to work isn’t an option.
She said: “We are looking at all possible options to keep public transport running for key workers like NHS staff – including bringing back retired staff to help in key roles like control centres.
“However, Tube drivers returning from retirement would need retraining in a cab on a one-to-one basis, which is clearly not possible under the Government’s social distancing guidelines.”