REPORTS that the number of trains on National Rail could be increased to Saturday levels next month have raised concerns that staff may not be protected adequately.
The government announced last night that up to 10 million key workers and their households, including rail staff, can now book a coronavirus test online or through their employer, but only if someone in their house is showing Covid 19 symptoms.
There has been growing speculation that many train services could be restored from 18 May if the government decides to reduce the lockdown restrictions by then, although there has been no confirmation that this will happen.
Even so the rail unions are unhappy, because they fear rail staff could be at greater risk if more people start travelling again.
The RMT has warned that there is ‘zero chance’ of an agreement to work the additional trains as things stand. A survey of 10,000 transport workers carried out by the union found ‘widespread failings’ to protect staff sufficiently and therefore their passengers.
General secretary Mick Cash said: ‘We are being told by a range of rail companies that Ministers definitely want to be ready to increase rail services at some point in May. Yet our survey of 10,000 transport workers has shown there are widespread failures to provide even the most basic protections for our members.
‘If these are not addressed then a ramping up of transport services will also ramp up the risk to workers and passengers. To protect both our members and passengers I will be writing to Grant Shapps saying there is zero chance of this being agreed in the current climate.’
TSSA has also claimed to have received information that Network Rail plans to restore more capacity by mid-May, including a phased increase of services between 11 and 18 May.
General secretary Manuel Cortes has asked Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines in a letter whether this is a direct instruction from the Department for Transport.
Mr Cortes is demanding to know how social distancing can be maintained on busier trains. He said: ‘I am extremely concerned that briefings have been given to staff indicating a major re-mobilisation without any of these fundamental questions being answered or any level of consultation over a safe and sustainable plan.’
Network Rail said plans to increase services are being prepared as part of ‘potential scenarios’, but that any additional services will be a decision for government. The Department for Transport has also declined to confirm any increases, saying only that ‘any changes to service levels will be clearly communicated subject to Public Health England guidance and discussed with industry and unions’.