Railway news

Rail services ramped up as schools reopen in lockdown easing

Railway news

Train services have ramped up as schools and colleges reopen across England on Monday.

Operators boosting their capacity through extra and longer trains include Great Western Railway (GWR), Greater Anglia, Southeastern, West Midlands Trains and TransPennine Express (TPE).

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Other measures include extra staff providing guidance to passengers at key stations, and enhanced onboard cleaning regimes to limit the spread of coronavirus.

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Children aged 11 and over are required by law to wear face coverings on public transport in England unless they are exempt.

Rail timetables were reduced when the third national lockdown was introduced in January.

Overall service levels are around 70% of pre-pandemic levels, which the industry believes will be broadly sufficient to cope with the extra demand from schoolchildren.

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Latest Department for Transport figures show passenger numbers are just 17% of what they were before the virus crisis.

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said: “Train companies are looking forward to welcoming students back on board and have worked with schools locally to ensure trains are in place to meet expected numbers.

“Our safer travel pledge means we will be carrying out extra cleaning on trains and, where necessary, services will be adjusted to increase space for social distancing.”

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TPE service planning director Jerry Farquharson said reinstating services used by a high number of schoolchildren was “a big priority”.

He added: “I want to reassure students and their parents that we are doing our utmost to keep everyone as safe as possible when using our services.

“Additional cleaning measures are in place right across our network and we have hand sanitiser points available at each of our stations.”

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GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said “all our key school and college services will be operating”.

He added: “Over the last year we have worked closely with colleges and schools as well as our colleagues on mapping these services, and a lot of hard work has been done to make sure people feel that they can travel safely and with confidence.

“As restrictions ease over the course of the coming months, and more passengers return to the railway, we will continue to restore services to our timetable.”

Meanwhile, motorists are being warned to expect congestion on local roads.

AA patrol of the year Ben Sheridan said: “Many busy parents will welcome the news of schools reopening, but with that comes the return of the school run.

“With more people avoiding public transport, roads could be especially busy at drop-off and pick-up times, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and allow extra time.”

He also urged drivers to carry out maintenance checks on their cars, particularly if they had not driven much over recent weeks.

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Sam Hewitt

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