Govt uses emergency powers to support rail service

South Western Railway issues reduced timetable for key workers| Refunds for season ticket holders| RMT Union welcome move


Emergency timetable for South Western Railway

pic: bannaman28 CC BY-SA 4.0 

The Government has taken steps to effectively nationalise the rail network using emergency powers saying the temporary arrangement is necessary to protect jobs and keep the rail network running, with a reduced service, for key workers and essential travel during the coronavirus outbreak. The Department for Transport has also promised that all season ticket and advance ticket holders will be able to get a refund.

The DfT will temporarily suspend normal franchise agreements and transfer all revenue and cost risk to the government for a limited period, initially six months. Operators, including South Western Railways will continue to run services day-to-day for a small predetermined management fee.

The railways have already seen up to a 70% drop in passenger numbers. Rail fares revenue has also reduced as people increasingly work from home and adopt social distancing, with total ticket sales down by two-thirds from the equivalent date in 2019.

South Western Railway have already announced their services will be reduced from today (Monday 23 March) and the amended timetable can be found here .

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said:

“We are taking this action to protect the key workers who depend on our railways to carry on their vital roles, the hardworking commuters who have radically altered their lives to combat the spread of coronavirus, and the frontline rail staff who are keeping the country moving.

“People deserve certainty that the services they need will run or that their job is not at risk in these unprecedented times. We are also helping passengers get refunds on Advance tickets to ensure no-one is unfairly out of pocket for doing the right thing.

“These offers will give operators the confidence and certainty so they can play their part in the national interest.”

Mick Cash, the General Secretary of the railworkers union the RMT gave the Government his full backing saying:

“RMT, along with our trade union colleagues, remains in ‎close contact with the DfT at this critical time for the transport industry. Our priority is to ensure that all action is taken to protect jobs, livelihoods and the health and safety of our members.

“Nothing should be ruled out to ensure that capacity, skills and infrastructure are protected to avoid collapse of services and guarantee that the transport sector is ready to step operations back up when the current crisis eases.”