Rail operators will restore several services this week as the government tries to coax workers back to their offices.
The timetable change will result in around 90% of the regular schedule being in operation. The south-east will see the return of 98% of commuter services, however some services are unlikely to return until December.
Peak trains will have extra carriages to allow greater numbers to travel, as social distancing requirements have essentially halved the number of people that a carriage can safely carry.
Director at Rail Delivery Group, Robert Nisbet, said: “Rail companies are boosting services to help people feel confident getting back to workplaces and supporting the economic recovery in city centres. Some train times will change so we’re asking people to check before they travel and plan their journeys for quieter times if possible.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “The rail industry must focus on maintaining good performance so that passengers can travel with confidence. Disruption and any crowding from this will be especially unwelcome.”
In recent weeks, schedules have been expanded to around 80% of the usual levels, having been cut drastically during the lockdown. An improved performance was seen by train operators as a result of focusing on key services, but trade unions pushed for timetables to be restored due to concerns that they’d be permanently reduced.
Mick Lynch, the RMT’s senior assistant general secretary, said that continuing with services at 10% of the usual capacity was ‘a retrograde and damaging step, that flies in the face of the government plans to get Britain back to work’, and would be viewed by its members as ‘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,” said Lynch.
The government denied that any reductions in services would be kept in the long term, dismissing the suggestions as ‘inaccurate and untrue’.
“We have asked operators to increase service levels ahead of schools returning in September, ensuring current excellent reliability levels are maintained while providing more space for social distancing and extra capacity for the future,” the Department for Transport said.
“With passengers returning as the economy restarts, our intervention means the railway is ready and able to support the national recovery from Covid.”
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