GOVERNMENT MUST SUPPORT RAIL TRAVEL

The past few months of life in lockdown have, in many ways, shown the railway at its best. As passenger numbers tumbled during March, timetables were rapidly rewritten to reflect the reduction in demand. The May 2018 saga, when there was insufficient time to plan driver rosters and the timetable collapsed, emphasised the need for long-term planning in devising schedules. Yet, in a situation where significant numbers of staff were self-isolating, the service has been broadly reliable.

Over the following weeks operators made tweaks to respond to staff availability and the local needs of key workers before attention turned to the 18 May ramp-up of services within England, which was several weeks in the planning (Scotland and Wales were of course moving at a different pace). This settled in well, and any feared surge in passenger numbers failed to materialise. Non-essential retailers opened their doors again in mid-June, and the next ramp-up in services is planned for 6 July, when there is likely to be a further easing of lockdown measures.

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