Coronavirus: Rail journeys at just 5% of normal levels

Rail firms restore 90% of services as passengers return to work & school

Coronavirus: Rail journeys at just 5% of normal levels

Rail operators are restoring more services from today as schools reopen and more people return to work.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, says services are returning to around 90% of pre-pandemic levels, although some of the remaining suspended services are now unlikely to make a comeback until December.

Rail passenger numbers are now back to about one-third of pre-pandemic levels – according to Department for Transport figures.

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In recent weeks, schedules have returned to around 80% of normal levels in recent weeks, after being slashed during lockdown under emergency measures.

Train operators have performed better while focusing on key services, but trade unions demanded that full timetables be restored, amid concerns that schedules could end up being reduced permanently.

Rail Delivery Group boss Jacqueline Starr said that operators “want people to feel confident taking the train”.

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“Rail companies are doing everything they can to ensure people start the term with a smooth journey, including boosting cleaning, providing sanitiser at stations and offering better information about busy services,” she added.

Francis Thomas, head of corporate affairs at West Midlands Trains, told BBC News that passengers would notice a number of differences.

“We have made big changes to our stations,” he said.

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“If you haven’t been to the railway station in the last couple of months you might find there’s a one-way system at your local stations, there’s hand gel available and we’ve invested in anti-fogging machines that can spread an anti-viral on trains.

“And there’s plenty of space. We reckon we can carry about 40% of normal loads before we start to reach social distancing.”

Train operators across the country have designed the new timetable, taking into consideration potentially busy stations and parts of routes that will experience higher demand for travel by schoolchildren.

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Where possible, more frequent services will be put on or extra carriages added to create more room.

Staff will also be on hand to explain the rules on wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing to older children.

Face coverings remain mandatory on trains and stations, and a recent study by the Rail Safety and Standards Board found the risk of catching COVID-19 was less than 0.01% on an average journey.

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