A CLAIM in a newspaper report that ‘hundreds of commuters could die from catching Covid on trains over the next four months’ has been rejected by the Rail Delivery Group as ‘highly misleading’. It says the risk from Covid-19 on trains and stations is low.
The clash has occurred as the RDG launches a new campaign today which promotes rail travel under the title ‘let’s get back on track’.
Described as the ‘biggest national marketing campaign in a generation’ for rail, a new advertisement is appearing on broadcast channels, social media, billboards and posters. It’s intended to encourage people to travel by train for days out and weekends away by featuring ‘moments of joy made possible by rail such as grandparents meeting their new grandchild for the first time and a couple being reunited after months apart during lockdown’.
The Daily Telegraph claimed that rail bosses had been ‘under pressure’ to ‘ditch’ the campaign, although the report did not explain who is bringing the pressure. The risk is said to have been revealed during a conference call between industry managers and the Rail Safety and Standards Board, but the report then conceded that the figures were a ‘severe, downside case’, and that ‘the modelling contrasts sharply with academic studies that found little or no evidence of coronavirus on trains’.
Recent tests by university academics found no traces of the Covid-19 virus during two rounds of testing at four of the country’s largest railway stations, according to Network Rail.
Places passengers touch regularly like escalator handrails, ticket machines, and benches were swabbed and hour-long air samples taken on the concourses at London Euston, Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Piccadilly stations in January and June this year.
Meanwhile, the RDG’s campaign is going ahead today as planned.
RDG chief executive Jacqueline Starr said: ‘As life starts to get back on track this summer, we’re looking forward to connecting more customers with the people and places they love, whether that’s a seaside trip with family, a night out with friends or a solo shopping spree. Taking a train is more than a journey, it’s a step towards a fair recovery today – boosting businesses that have struggled throughout the pandemic – as well as a clean economy tomorrow.’
Network Rail has already produced evidence of a rail recovery. It said the number of people using Leeds station on one Saturday this month was back to pre-Covid levels.