Following on from a restriction of transport services in London, the government has agreed with rail operators to reduce national rail service levels to help tackle the spread of covid-19
The move is intended to keep core services running to ensure those who need to get to work, including emergency services and NHS can continue to do so, and also to enable important freight services to continue, ensuring the sector can support the movement of goods and supplies, including medical equipment.
It reflects a decrease in passenger demand as people stop all unnecessary travel and decrease non-essential social contact in line with government 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 23 March and kept under review, with operators providing communications to ensure passengers who need to travel are 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.
Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, said: ‘We are taking decisive action to protect the public which means reducing travel for the time being, while 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.’
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: ‘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 are being delivered to best effect where they are needed most, in accordance with our plan.’
Similar measures have been agreed by the Scottish and Welsh governments to ensure this package is implemented across operators in Scotland and Wales.