AS COMMUTER numbers plummet due to the coronavirus crisis, railway companies have agreed with the government to start implementing a reduced service from next week.
Some routes have seen the volume of passengers drop by 69% as people follow advice to work from home in a bid to delay the spread of the virus.
The reduced rail timetable is a bid to keep core services running for passengers such as health sector workers and emergency service crews, as well as keeping freight trains moving.
It is intended to operate a gradual reduction, as more and more people stop unnecessary travel and decrease non-essential social contact.
The service reductions start from Monday, and the Government promises to keep them under review. Passengers are promised clear communications from rail companies as to which services will be reduced and when.
All companies will be affected, including Great Western Railway which operates services to London Paddington, and South Western Railway, which runs services to London Waterloo.
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, said: “We are taking decisive action to protect the public which means reducing travel for the time being, whilst still ensuring keyworker heroes can get to their jobs to keep this nation running.
“For passengers in crucial roles, including essential workers in our emergency services and NHS, alongside people who need to attend medical appointments or care for loved ones, these changes protect the services they rely on.
“Our railways are at the heart of this country’s transport links, and we continue to work closely with the industry to develop measures that protects operators in these challenging times.”
And Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “At a time of extraordinary national challenge, the measures rail companies are putting in place with government will preserve services so that we can continue to get key workers to where they need to be, deliver food to supermarkets and get fuel to power stations.
“This is not a decision we take lightly, however implementing these measures now will mean that we can continue to operate trains over a prolonged period with fewer railway workers, who like so many others are to be commended for putting the needs of the country first, and whose safety remains front of mind.
“We are monitoring demand closely and should it become necessary in the weeks ahead, we will adjust services and timetables to ensure they’re being delivered to best effect where they’re needed most, in accordance with our plan. We would advise anybody who has to travel to check the time of their train on the National Rail Enquiries website before they set out.”
The Government has been working together with the operators, freight groups and trade unions to ensure there is a collective focus during this crucial time and to ensure all areas of the industry and its people have the support needed.
Similar measures have been agreed by the Scottish and Welsh Governments to ensure this package is implemented across operators in Scotland and Wales. Transport for London has already announced a similar reduction in usual services.