Following new government guidance on controlling the Covid-19 pandemic, Northern leaders have outlined the steps to be taken to reopen the region’s rail network.
The region’s rail leaders have announced that clear communications with passengers and staff will be the most important factors in keeping people safe as services resume.
Rail use in Northern England had fallen to represent just 5% of travel, with only 45% of train services operating, but preparation is now underway to return to 75% of pre-Covid-9 service levels by 18th May. With capacity heavily reduced by social distancing requirements, rail leaders in the region have reinforced the need to only use public transport for essential travel where no alternatives were available.
Barry White, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, explained:
Rail responded quickly to the lockdown and, while much of the policy has been set nationally, we have had local input. We have had the opportunity to help tailor services to meet local needs and this has been useful. I want to thank all our partners who have helped with this.”
David Hoggarth, Strategic Rail Director for Transport for the North, said:
Throughout this crisis we have been working closely with our partners and industry through the North of England Contingency Group to share intelligence and ensure rail services can meet essential needs. We, industry, and all our Members are clear; it is vital that people help us keep trains clear for those who really need them by considering whether their journey is really necessary and, if it is, whether they could travel another way.”
While also stressing the need to ensuring passenger safety on trains, Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, added that the phased return to pre-Covid-19 service levels offered a chance to start again after the previous poor service of the North’s rail operators in recent years. He said:
This must be a moment where we draw a line under two years of chaos. We have been able to get back to a stable position. We have seen a cultural change and that’s thanks to all on the railway.”