Distancing warning as train services ramp up again

The transport watchdog has called on the Government and the rail industry to ‘be straight with passengers’ about the fact that social distancing may not always be possible, despite extra trains, as Britain comes out of lockdown.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘Passengers have told us they want three main things: space on board, extra cleaning, and enforcement of face covering rules.

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‘Government and the industry need to be straight with passengers that social distancing may not always be possible.

'Operators need to provide reliable information on how busy services are so passengers can make informed decisions as more people start travelling. Passengers also need to do their bit by wearing a face covering, unless exempt. The next few weeks will be crucial in helping to rebuild passenger confidence step by step.’

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the rail industry, said that by Monday 12 April when lockdown eases again, more than 1,000 weekday services will have been added since mid-February, taking the daily number of trains from approximately 16,900 to almost 18,000.

The RDG said an ‘even more significant service uplift’ is planned for May.

Government advice is still to 'minimise travel where possible', messaging that has caused some concern in the sector, with fears it could hamper the public transport recovery and the ongoing hope of modal shift away from private cars.  

Robert Nisbet, RDG's director of nations and regions, said: ‘In addition to enhanced cleaning and providing better information to help people avoid busier times, rail companies are increasing space on trains across the country by adding services as we take steps out of lockdown.

‘We are closely monitoring passenger numbers as restrictions ease to carefully balance service levels with demand, and the need to run the railway efficiently for taxpayers.’

Mark Phillips, CEO of the Rail Safety and Standards Board said: ‘As restrictions ease, it is extremely reassuring that rail companies are taking the necessary steps to ensure people can travel with confidence.

'While research into this field continues, we know that ventilation systems on most trains are effective in replacing air in carriages, meaning transmission may be less likely on trains than in other indoor environments.’

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