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Operators announce increased services to meet demand

A NUMBER of train operators have announced increased services to coincide with the reopening of schools to all children and also to carry more commuters.

Greater Anglia said it is now running a ’near normal’ timetable, and that from 7 September more than 93 per cent of Greater Anglia’s pre-pandemic services will have been restored. The number of seats in rush hours will be more than 95 per cent of normal, because longer trains will be provided on some services.

Great Western Railway said it had already introduced more trains on 31 August, having been in contact with schools, colleges, and local education authorities to help understand their plans. There will be a further increase from 14 September, restoring about 94 per cent of the normal timetable. 

South Western Railway is increasing its timetables from 7 September, reintroducing some direct services and increasing frequencies and capacity at busy times. Weekend timetables will be ‘near normal’, and the effect will be to increase capacity on its network by another 20 per cent.

Northern will increase its timetables from 14 September, but warned that the impact of coronavirus is still being felt. It added that its timetables ‘don’t represent a return to pre-Covid service levels, but reflect the challenges faced by the operator and the changing demands of customers, many of whom will be returning to workplaces and schools for the first time in several months.’

Northern’s regional director Tony Baxter said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on society and the railway has not been immune from that.

‘We are doing all we can to continue to provide the best possible service for customers across the network. Many members of staff have been shielding and the knock-on effects of the virus will be felt for many months.

‘With limited resources, the timetables we are set to introduce in September reflect the new normal for Northern and have been designed to provide as many services as possible, at the times our customers need them, without risking punctuality and reliability.

‘We want our customers to have confidence in the service we are offering and our plan to reintroduce services in a phased way will give those customers the stability they deserve.

Meanwhile, talks are understood to be continuing between the English operators and the Department for Transport over a continuation of Emergency Measures Agreements, which are currently due to expire on 20 September. The EMAs protect franchises from the financial impact of the pandemic, because all costs and revenues are handled directly by the DfT, with a management fee paid to the franchise holder.

One EMA has already been extended. FirstGroup announced yesterday that the agreement for Great Western Railway will now run until at least 26 June next year.

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