Thursday 8 April 2021 12:01 am

Rail firms boost service levels ahead of next stage of lockdown lifting

Rail firms are cranking up their service levels in the build up to the next stage in the UK’s lifting of lockdown restrictions on 12 April.

By next week, when retail and leisure facilities reopen, train franchises will be running 18,000 services a day, according to industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

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That’s more than 1,000 more services that were running in February in the height of the UK’s second lockdown.

A further uplift in services – on an even greater scale – is expected from May, when more restrictions are removed.

The RDG said that increasing the number of trains running would give people more confidence to travel.

Robert Nisbet, the trade body’s director of nations and regions, said: “In addition to enhanced cleaning and providing better information to help people avoid busier times, rail companies are increasing space on trains across the country by adding services as we take steps out of lockdown.

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“We are closely monitoring passenger numbers as restrictions ease to carefully balance service levels with demand, and the need to run the railway efficiently for taxpayers.”

According to figures from the Department for Transport (DfT), rail passenger numbers are currently at just 26 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Under the current restrictions, people are encouraged to stay local and avoid public transport for all but essential travel.

Paul Touhy of commuter group the Campaign for Better Transport said that bumping the level of services was “essential” for getting people back onto the railways.

“We recognise that rail companies have worked really hard throughout the pandemic to keep trains and stations clean, and to ensure passengers are safe”, he said.

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“Now as restrictions are easing passengers will be reassured to know that the necessary steps are in place to ensure everyone can use the railway with confidence again. Getting people back onto public transport is essential to supporting economic growth across the country and avoiding an environmentally damaging car-led recovery.”