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Rail Committee North meeting to discuss rail recovery

Transport for the North’s Rail North Committee, which will meet virtually on today (May 12th) and will be live streamed to the public, has set out guidelines for rail operators such as Northern and Transpennine Express on how to run trains whilst following social distancing guidelines and reduced demand.  

With the level of staffing likely to be affected by vulnerable workers remaining in isolation, daytime services for key workers will remain a priority, although the frequency and number of trains will start to gradually increase. There will be few evening services to allow resources to be focused on commuter trains.

Leisure travel will still be discouraged and timetables will not prioritise these destinations.

The report also highlights the possibility of rail operators introducing reservation-only trains to limit the number of passengers using each service.

In the ‘Covid-19 Recovery’ document the committee admits that the rail network will need to be prepared for an ‘unknown’ level of usage in the coming months.

Since the lockdown timetable was introduced on March 23rd, passenger numbers have dropped to around 5% of normal levels.

Transpennine Express and Northern have been moved onto a government supported Emergency Measures Agreement to protect the operator from financial pressure. Although, Northern have been under government control since March, when Arriva lost the franchise.

When the report was prepared, the rail industry has been advised to prepare for an increase in services from May 18th, and they are still waiting further advice from the government.

Northern have deferred the introduction of their planned May 2020 timetable update, and instead retain the December 2019 timetable as the basis for their immediate post-lockdown operations.

The report states: “Transport for the North will play a role in advising on the priorities for services in the region, and on assessing the role rail is playing in rebuilding confidence in the economy. We will also be able to help shape how services and markets are best served as the opportunities offered by these extraordinary circumstances emerge.

“For example, it may be sensible (while demand is lower) to focus on train performance, rather than capacity. Over time, the behavioural changes resulting from the pandemic may provide an opportunity to prepare and deliver a better rail service for the future."

More to follow….

The meeting beings today at 11am and you can tune in via this link.  


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