TRAIN services are being severely reduced from today, but trains will continue to keep running to transport essential workers.
So far, it is not known if any National Rail route will close completely, although the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is reported to have been urged to shut down the London Underground system, where 40 smaller stations were closed on Friday. His response has been that essential travel needs to continue, and the only line to close altogether has been the Waterloo & City, which in normal times carries commuters from Waterloo to Bank. However, the frequencies of trains on other lines have been reduced.
In an open letter to several newspapers, the Railway Delivery Group said: ‘These are exceptional times. COVID-19 is changing how everyone in the UK lives, works and travels. But we know that Britain’s railway is a vital artery that keeps the economic and social lifeblood of the nation connected through this challenging period.
‘That is why, in order to keep essential services running over what may be a prolonged period of disruption for the country, we have worked with government to switch to a reduced timetable from Monday. It is not an easy decision, but it is a necessary one which will allow us to match the number of services available to our reduced workforce. It means that key workers like nurses, police officers and firefighters will continue to be able to get to their jobs over the coming weeks and months. It means that freight trains will continue to deliver the goods that keep our supermarket shelves stacked and our power stations running.
‘The reduced timetable will have around half the number of trains running compared to a normal weekday, with early morning and late evening services where possible to support those doing shift work. It won’t be perfect but we are monitoring journeys closely and should it become necessary in the weeks ahead, we will adjust services to ensure they’re being delivered to where they’re needed most.’
The general secretary of the RMT Mick Cash said: ‘RMT, along with our trade union colleagues, remains in close contact with the DfT at this critical time for the transport industry. Our priority is to ensure that all action is taken to protect jobs, livelihoods and the health and safety of our members.
‘Nothing should be ruled out to ensure that capacity, skills and infrastructure are protected to avoid collapse of services and guarantee that the transport sector is ready to step operations back up when the current crisis eases.’
Meanwhile, Transport for Wales has said that NHS workers carrying identification will be entltled to free travel to and from work until 30 April.