A REDUCED rail timetable is being introduced to protect train services and staff
Government and rail operators across the UK agreed reductions in service levels following reduced passenger demand, as people change their travel patterns to help tackle spread of COVID-19.
The move will keep core services running to ensure those who need to get to work, including emergency services and NHS, can continue to do so.
The plan will also ensure key freight services can continue to move around the country, allowing vital goods to continue to be shipped where needed.
The government and the UK rail industry have agreed a plan that will see a gradual reduction in train services across the country to reflect lower passenger demand – rail travel has declined by up to 69 per cent on some routes, reflecting government health advice – while keeping vital rail services running.
Operators will continue to run core services ensuring people remain able to get to work, can travel to access medical appointments and the flow of goods continues across the UK.
The move reflects a decrease in passenger demand as people stop all unnecessary travel and decrease non-essential social contact in line with government’s advice to help stop the spread of the virus.
Running reduced services will also help protect the welfare of frontline railway staff essential for day-to-day operations.
Rail services will be reduced from Monday (March 23) and kept under review, with operators providing clear communications to ensure passengers who need to travel are well-informed of the changes.
There will be a gradual move towards introducing reduced service levels on wide parts of the network over the longer term. To minimise disruption, services will be reduced progressively across the network over the coming days.
Transport secretary 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.”
Chiltern Railways – services from Monday will be moving to a reduced timetable until further notice, though service levels will be kept under regular review. People needing to travel on Monday should check their train time from midday on Sunday.
There will be one train per hour in each direction between London Marylebone and Birmingham, Oxford, Aylesbury via High Wycombe and Aylesbury Vale Parkway via the Metropolitan Line. Additional peak services will be provided Monday to Friday and early morning and late evening trains for key workers will still be provided.
Mary Hewitt, interim managing director said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly, however implementing this reduced timetable now means that we can protect Chiltern Railways’ ability to operate a reliable service and continue to get key workers to where they need to be.
“I’d like to pay tribute to the Chiltern Railways team who are working so hard to keep the railway running. I am immensely proud of the service they have provided in such challenging times.”
West Midlands Railway (WMR) – WMR and sister company London Northwestern Railway, will reduce the number of trains running on the network from Monday.
The reduced timetable, which is currently being finalised, equates to just over half the usual weekday level of service across the West Midlands Trains network.
Passengers should visit www.wmr.uk/coronavirus for the latest information and to see a copy of the timetable when it is available.
Online journey planners will be updated with the new train times by Sunday afternoon – visit www.wmr.uk/plan for live travel information or follow @WestMidRailway on Twitter.
WMR managing director Julian Edwards said: “Revising our timetable is the most effective way of making sure we continue to run a regular, reliable service to keep people moving in these exceptional circumstances.
“Like every employer in the country we have a number of our staff currently in self-isolation and attempting to continue with our regular timetable would be impossible.
“Although demand for rail travel has dropped, we know there are many thousands of people who need to keep moving, including NHS workers and others involved in delivering essential public services. That is why our front-line staff will continue coming to work in order to deliver this timetable and help keep the country moving.”