Rail firms across Britain have cut services with frequencies likely to be cut further, but services could be ramped up again if needed to maintain social distancing.
Following an announcement on Friday in which the ministers gave a green light for changes to agreed timetables, rail firms have published new timetables that were uploaded to journey planners such as National Rail at the weekend.
The cuts to services reflect both a severe fall in demand and the possibility that the coronavirus outbreak could impact staffing levels.
While a worsening of the outbreak could see services cut further, Transport Network understands that the industry is conscious of the possibility that the reduction in services could see crowded trains, despite a reduction in passengers.
Sky News reported on Monday that pictures from several routes into London showed carriages ‘as full as usual, with little to no space in between commuters’.
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators and Network Rail, said on Friday: ‘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.’
The Department for Transport said that there will be a gradual move towards introducing reduced service levels on wide parts of the network over the longer term.The RDG said operators will continue to run ‘core services’.
The country’s largest franchise, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which operates Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express, has announced a reduced service from Monday (23 March), followed by a further reduced timetable from next Monday (30 March).
It said amended timetables, which are adapted versions of ‘base’ timetables that GTR already operates, will include services to suit key workers travelling in the peak as well as working early and late shifts.
Chief operating officer Steve White said: ‘This is an unprecedented situation for everyone and we – together with the rest of the rail industry – are doing our utmost to keep an essential service running for key workers who are doing such vital jobs.’
Other rail firms, including South Western Railway, Southeastern and Chiltern, have also published reduced timetables.