London Underground

Coronavirus: Rail services slashed as demand collapses

Coronavirus: Rail services slashed as demand collapses

Public transport operators around the UK have started slashing services due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Rail service frequencies are being cut amid a collapse in demand and Government advice on avoiding non-essential travel.

Northern Trains said there will be cancellations on a dozen routes on Thursday “as a result of COVID-19”.

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The affected routes include Liverpool-Manchester Airport, Leeds/Sheffield-Nottingham and Newcastle-Carlisle.

South Western Railway said it is cancelling trains at short notice as, “like most organisations, we’re seeing more staff having to stay at home unwell”.

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Great Western Railway has announced its sleeper service between London Paddington and Penzance – known as the Night Riviera – will be suspended after Friday “to protect our customers and colleagues”.

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said train companies will operate services to “as many places as possible in line with demand”.

He added that this must be balanced with “ensuring we are able to maintain staffing levels needed”.

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Transport for London said it will close up to 40 London Underground stations until further notice in a bid to “ensure a safe and reliable service”.

The Night Tube, which normally operates on Friday and Saturday nights, has been suspended, and there will be no Waterloo and City line services.

Will ‘ghost trains’ be used?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has spoken of his desire to avoid “ghost trains”, but noted that it may be desirable to keep as many services running as possible to provide space for passengers to comply with social distancing requirements.

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He told MPs on Tuesday that rail companies, as well as bus firms and airlines, could be temporarily nationalised to help them through the coronavirus outbreak.

He said good organisations “shouldn’t be going bust” as a result of problems caused by the spread of Covid-19.

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Sam Hewitt

Let off some steam...