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The Department for Transport and train operators have agreed
to gradually reduce services across the country starting Monday, 23 March
following a drop in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Companies have agreed to continue operating core services to
enable key workers to get to their place of employment and to allow passengers
to travel to medical appointments, and to ensure freight services can continue
to move around the country.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said services will remain
under review, with the reduction to happen progressively over the coming days. Passengers will be informed of any changes as they are decided.
It comes after Shapps said he wanted to ensure franchise
owners did not have to operate “ghost trains” as more people across the UK
follow government advice to work from home and avoid unnecessary social contact.
“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,” Shapps said. “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 protect operators in these challenging times.”
Welcoming the news, Robert Nisbet, director of nations and
regions at the Rail Delivery Group, 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.”
Similar measures have been introduced by the Scottish and
Welsh governments, while Transport for London, which manages trains, trams and
buses in the capital, has also begun gradually reducing services.
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