COVER STORY: More trains… but advice is not to use public transport

Train operators were beginning to introduce more services this week, although the message from Government is that nobody should use public transport unless absolutely necessary.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the introduction of the lockdown from March 23 (RAIL 902), many operators have been running skeleton timetables.

Usually around 25,000 trains run daily across the UK, adding up to 1.75 billion passenger journeys made annually. This dropped to 12,700 services carrying between 1% and 5% of the usual passenger loadings.

Advice published by Government on May 12 stated: “Consider all other forms of transport before using public transport.”

It warned of longer journey times, and (if possible) to “travel at off-peak times. Your employer may agree alternative or flexible working hours to support this.”

Face covering is also mentioned: “There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas. If you can, wear a face covering if you need to use public transport.”

In a briefing to the industry by the Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum (RICF), a set of principles has been issued confirming that social distancing remains at two metres and that train capacity would drop to an average 20% (although depending on the train this could be as low as 15% or as high as 30%). RICF also stated that while Government will in time relax social distancing rules, the industry doesn’t know when that will happen.

The briefing (seen by RAIL) said that expectations for the number of passengers travelling from May 18 “will not be high”, enabling testing and refinement of the measures to be carried out.

The next phase is expected to follow soon after, with further increases of usage. In England from June 1, Government plans to ease lockdown restrictions with some children able to return to school. In Scotland and Wales, this is a devolved matter.

  • For the FULL story, including union and industry reaction, read RAIL 905, out now.

  • For the FULL story regarding the railway's ongoing response to the COVID-19 situation, read RAIL 905, out now.

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