As the country takes the next steps out of lockdown, rail companies are running more services and longer trains, increasing space to support social distancing as part of the rail industry’s safer travel pledge.
To ensure people can travel with confidence, rail companies have been closely monitoring passenger numbers and adding services where possible and as necessary. More than 1,000 weekday services have been added since mid-February increasing to almost 18,000, yet an even more significant service uplift is planned through May and June.
Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions for the Rail Delivery Group 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.”
Rail companies have been supporting the country throughout the pandemic including during the recent lockdown, ensuring supermarkets stay stocked and key workers get to where they’re needed. When schools reopened, train operators across the country added more services on key routes for school children.
The rail industry is working to keep rail staff safe in turn, with many operators incorporating lateral flow testing for rail staff, enabling them to more quickly identify any staff member who may have contracted Covid-19 and protect other members of staff.
Rail staff are working hard to ensure that stations and trains are also kept clean. 1,500 additional people have been employed to clean the railway during the pandemic, an increase of almost 25% since March last year, and 13,250 litres of cleaning agent is used every month to sanitise surfaces across the network. Surveys undertaken by the independent passenger watchdog Transport Focus have consistently shown that around 90% of people making train journeys in the past two weeks feel safe doing so.
Christine Smith, who manages the cleaning of Govia Thameslink Railway trains said, “We’ve pulled out all the stops to make sure stations and trains are thoroughly cleaned and sanitised many times every day, with extra attention paid to high contact touchpoints like handrails and buttons. If you touch it, we’ve cleaned it.”
Increasingly, the government is promoting effective ventilation to disrupt aerosol transmission of coronavirus indoors. The EU Agency for Railways has stated that ventilation systems on trains, which renew the air in a carriage at least every ten minutes, are important to extract harmful aerosols including coronavirus, suggesting that trains may be safer than some other indoor settings.
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.”