Rail operators and Government to assess rail service levels

Photo: Rail Delivery Group

Rail operators are “working closely” with the Government to ensure adequate rail services throughout England’s fresh national COVID-19 lockdown.

It comes as a rail operator announced it is to suspend all its services for the next two months in what it described as a “hugely disappointing” start to the year.

Grand Central said it will “hibernate” services on both its North East and West Riding routes from January 9, with a return to service currently planned for March 1.

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At the beginning of the pandemic last April, rail services were reduced to almost half of pre-Covid levels. In December, overall services had risen to around 87%.

The move comes after England’s chief medical officer warned that coronavirus poses an “extraordinarily high” risk and people must take the stay at home rules seriously, as new figures suggested one in 50 had COVID-19 last week.

A Grand Central spokesman said: “As an Open Access operator, relying exclusively on income from ticket sales, it’s clear we would best serve the needs of our business and our staff and passengers, by taking a period of hibernation.”

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He added that following discussions with rail unions, workers and some support staff will be switched on to the Government furlough scheme over the next two months.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokeswoman said it will work with operators in the next few days to “assess the right level of service provision”.

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for the Rail Delivery Group which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “Rail companies played an important role keeping key workers moving and supermarkets stocked during last year’s lockdowns.

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“We are working closely with the Government to ensure we run the right level of services to do so again.

“By increasing cleaning and providing better customer information, our people are ensuring that those who must travel can do so with confidence.”

A DfT spokeswoman said: “We will work with operators in the coming days to assess the right level of service provision as we have done throughout the pandemic.

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“While we cannot predict the long-term effect of COVID-19 on travel patterns, it is critical that we ensure the railway can respond quickly to changes in passenger demand whilst supporting economic recovery.”

Click here to read the full announcement from Boris Johnson.

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Sam Hewitt

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