U.K. rail firms began to serve commuters again as the national government continues to push the country’s reopening despite the pandemic.
Months after the pandemic halts their operations, U.K. rail operators have now resumed most of their services as offices and schools reopen again. Each firm has introduced strict health protocols as well to ensure the public’s safety.
Rail services back at 90%
On Monday, September 7, rail operators in England, Wales, and Scotland had started nearly 90% of their services again as the national government proceeds in reopening the U.K. economy. Those in the Southeast, on the one hand, had returned about 98% of their services.
Prior to the resumption, operators reportedly saw a slight increase in the recent weeks, though it is still too early to provide exact figures according to them.
“Rail companies are boosting services to help people feel confident getting back to workplaces and supporting the economic recovery in city centers,” Robert Nisbet, a director at Rail Delivery Group who also represents rail operators, told The Guardian.
But while most train operators have given the green light, trade unions argued that some of the suspended services are less likely to return in December due to reduced schedules, specifically if timetables would not be fully restored.
Mick Lynch, a senior assistant general secretary at the RMT, argued that a 10% reduction of services through fall is a “retrograde and a damaging step” and is a “hostile act that could usher in further and deeper cuts down the line.”
“Any moves towards transport austerity with the purpose of slashing services, jobs, and conditions will be vehemently opposed by RMT every step of the way,” Lynch continued.
Rail operators introduce health protocols
As an effort to earn commuters’ confidence back, U.K. rail operators have also introduced standard health measures to ensure every traveler’s safety.
For instance, rail firms have implemented a one-way system. Hand sanitizing gels are also available at the railway station, while the government ordered face mask compulsory when on trains.
Francis Thomas of West Midlands Trains also said “big changes” were implemented when it comes to health protocols, including the one-way system and sanitizing gels.
“We have invested in anti-fogging machines that can spread an anti-viral on trains. And there is plenty of space. We reckon we can carry about 40% of normal loads before we start to breach social distancing,” Thomas told BBC.
The head of Rail Delivery Group also shared the group’s initiative to ensure commuters’ safety, emphasizing rail operators are “doing everything they can” to keep Britons safe.
“Some train times will change so we are asking people to check before they travel and plan their journeys for quieter times if possible,” Jacqueline Starr said.