THE level of National Rail services is being reduced this month to an average of 72 per cent of pre-Covid timetables, following the reintroduction of travel restrictions in lockdowns.
Passengers are being urged not to use trains unless their journeys are essential and, if so, to check for timetable changes before they try to travel.
Train operators are also being affected by staff shortages caused by the pandemic, and running fewer services means they are more likely to be reliable.
The Rail Delivery Group said the changes are designed to be reversed as quickly as possible when restrictions are eased again.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘It is critical that our railways continue to deliver reliable services for key workers and people who cannot reasonably work from home, and that they respond quickly to changes in demand. The new reduced timetable delivers that, as well as reducing the financial burden on the taxpayer.
‘Levels of services will vary by operator and changes will come into effect steadily over the next few weeks. Passengers who are using the railways, including those who need to travel to vaccination centres, should check their route before they travel, and aim to do so outside peak times wherever possible.’
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘It is vital that we keep services running to transport essential workers whilst maintaining the safest possible practices to protect both staff and passengers in light of the serious threat posed by the virulent new COVID variant. RMT at national and local level will be keeping the situation under review and will continue discussions with all operators and Network Rail.
‘It is also essential that we maintain staffing levels, investment and infrastructure to ensure that the rail industry is fighting fit to help kickstart Britain’s economic recovery when the current restrictions are lifted.’