The Prince of Wales has praised Tube workers for keeping London Underground running during the pandemic, telling them “I don’t know how you do it”.
Charles met the staff, who worked at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, at a Transport for London (TfL) training centre to hear their stories.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, chair of TfL, hosted the visit and said the prince had asked for the meeting to personally thank workers for their efforts.
After chatting to a group of staff, who were socially distanced, the prince told them: “Thanks for doing so much, thanks for all your hard work, I don’t know how you do it.”
In a lighter moment, Mr Khan revealed the heir to the throne had said he had been gifted some face masks with a tartan design: “He’s been given three. He’s looking forward to wearing them out and about and stuff – it’s not his own tartan by the way.”
The event was staged in the open air outside Ashfield House, a training centre near West Kensington Tube station in west London, to minimise any possible spread of the virus.
The Tube network has been running throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and maintained 50% of services at the height of the outbreak when a third of staff were ill, shielding or self-isolating.
Many of the drivers, station staff and other workers have since returned to the front line and now more than 90% of the timetable is operating.
The outbreak took its toll though and 44 London transport workers have died due to coronavirus.
The London Mayor said about Charles: “He reached out to us and said ‘I want to say thank you, because I know you’ve kept the city going’.”
He added: “The great thing, he’s met everyone from cleaners who are crucial to keeping public transport clean, the deep cleaning, to the commissioner – so you can see the response in their faces.
“There’s a ripple effect with him coming down, they’ll speak to their colleagues who will speak to their colleagues, but their families will know that His Royal Highness came to say thank you.
“But for the public transport running during the lockdown, NHS workers, care workers, those who work in shops wouldn’t be able to get to work to serve our city.”
During the visit Charles met the outgoing TfL Commissioner Mike Brown and his successor Andy Byford, along with a range of workers.
Dane Commissiong, 50, originally from Trinidad and a customer service supervisor for a group of four stations centred around Hammersmith in west London, joked with Charles about the upcoming England vs West Indies Test match series which will be played behind closed doors.
The prince quipped: “A bit depressing, you hit a six and no one cheers.”
Mr Commissiong said later he had been glued to the daily Government briefings about coronavirus and having a strong team of colleagues motivated him to come to work despite the threat of the virus.
He said: “You do have that in the back of your mind that coming to work there are risks with the current pandemic but we followed the guidelines of the Government.”
The 50-year-old’s manager Jane Black added: “There were days at Hammersmith where maybe what you would call the rush hour – you’d get 10 people, at the start of the lockdown that’s what we were looking at.”