South Western Railway say staff self-isolating requires amended timetable
South Western Railway (SWR) is to operate a revised timetable, following the Government’s advice regarding the outbreak of COVID-19.
SWR will reduce the number of services it will be running from Monday 23 March.
The spread of the COVID-19 means that like at most other organisations, more of their staff are having to follow advice to stay at home unwell and self-isolate for up to 14 days.
By reducing the number of trains running, they can focus on ensuring a reliable timetable for passengers who still have to travel, especially healthcare professionals, police and fire service workers.
Some alterations to services will continue in the meantime due to last minute cancellations from staff being unavailable, before the amended timetable is introduced on Monday.
Mark Hopwood, South Western Railway's Managing Director, said, "We’ve decided to operate a revised timetable from Monday 23 March onwards.
"With the Government advising people only to travel if it’s essential, and with some of our team needing to follow advice and self-isolate, running fewer trains means we can offer a more reliable timetable that still gets key workers, such as doctors and nurses, to and from work.
"The outbreak has put the country in a unique place, but it’s vital our industry helps its day-to-day running. Our colleagues are working hard to ensure services are running so passengers who can’t stay at home get where they need to be when they need to be there."
John Halsall, Network Rail Southern Region Managing Director, said, "It’s so important for this country that key workers are able to get to work and vital freight supplies can continue to be delivered, and we’re proud to be playing our part.
"I’m so impressed by their dedication and of our railway colleagues too. Network Rail are working closely with our train operators on new timetables and we're continuing to maintain and renew the railway, so that we can keep trains running and people moving, despite the difficult circumstances.
Nationally the Government and the UK rail industry have agreed a plan that will see a gradual reduction in train services across the country to reflect lower passenger demand, while keeping vital rail services running.
Operators will continue to run core services ensuring people remain able to get to work, can travel to access medical appointments and the flow of goods continues across the UK.
The move reflects a decrease in passenger demand by up to 69 per cent on some routes, as people stop all unnecessary travel and decrease non-essential social contact in line with government’s 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 clear communications to ensure passengers who need to travel are well-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.
The plan will also ensure key freight services can continue to move around the country, allowing vital goods to continue to be shipped where needed.
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, said: “We are taking decisive action to protect the public which means reducing travel for the time being, whilst 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.
“Our railways are at the heart of this country’s transport links, and we continue to work closely with the industry to develop measures that protects operators in these challenging times.”
Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “At a time of extraordinary national challenge, the measures rail companies are putting in place with government will preserve services so that we can continue to get key workers to where they need to be, deliver food to supermarkets and get fuel to power stations. 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.
He continued: "We are monitoring demand closely and should it become necessary in the weeks ahead, we will adjust services and timetables to ensure they’re being delivered to best effect where they’re needed most, in accordance with our plan. We would advise anybody who has to travel to check the time of their train on the National Rail Enquiries website before they set out.”
Similar measures have been agreed by the Scottish and Welsh Governments to ensure this package is implemented across operators in Scotland and Wales. Transport for London has already announced a similar reduction in usual services.
March 20, 2020