Rail timetables have been slashed, ticket sales have fallen steeply, and passenger numbers are down by 70% as officials warned the public to avoid “all but essential travel”.
The government has introduced emergency legislation to halt the rail franchise system in a bid to stop train companies collapsing.
Here is what is happening with train timetables in the UK.
Which rail services have been cancelled or reduced?
The suspension of rail franchises comes as operators drastically reduced the number of trains running across the UK.
Some of the country’s largest rail companies have begun outlining their plans to keep trains running for key workers, while freeing up capacity for crucial freight deliveries.
On Sunday, 40 of the smallest stations on the London Underground were closed, as the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, faced pressure to shut the whole tube network.
Great Western Railway
GWR will run hourly services from:
- London to South Wales- London to Bristol Temple Meads- London to Plymouth - where passengers can change for trains to Cornwall.
The Night Riviera trains between London and Penzance have stopped, and the Pullman Dining food services will not run on intercity trains.
The company said regional and branch line services would also be revised.
GWR interim managing director Matthew Golton said: ‘Our responsibility is to run a service that can be relied upon at this time. We are taking sensible measures to make sure we are able to do so.’
Avanti West Coast
Avanti West Coast is still running services from:
- London to Glasgow (calling at Liverpool Lime Street, and Manchester Piccadilly) every hour- London to North Wales once a day- London and Chester
The company also said it would not accept cash at stations or on its trains, in an effort to reduce contact between customers and staff.
Greater Anglia said it would run a Sunday-style service during the week, with increased trains at rush hour for commuters.
Almost all GA routes will have an hourly service throughout the day, and some, like the services between Hertford East and Stratford, will have ones every half an hour.
Trains in Scotland
There have been significant changes in Scotland, after ScotRail slashed its rail services by more than half, after it said passenger numbers had fallen by 55 per cent.
The company said “reducing the number of trains in service creates opportunities for additional cleaning activities on trains, and in depots, and allows more targeted cleaning at stations.”
It has published its revised timetables here.
Caledonian Sleeper has suspended services between Aberdeen and Fort William, and will operate a single nightly train between Edinburgh and London with portions continuing to and from Glasgow and Inverness.
LNER will also reduce trains between Edinburgh and London by a quarter from Monday but those to Aberdeen and Inverness will be maintained.
Avanti West Coast passengers between Edinburgh and London will have to change at Carlisle from Monday but its Glasgow services will be unchanged.
TransPennine Express will also run fewer trains between Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester.
Who can still travel by train?
Currently only key workers are allowed on trains, after the government announced that people should work from home wherever possible and avoid all but essential travel.
The full list of “key workers” includes workers in the following sectors:
- Doctors, nurses, and other medical and social care workers- Nursery and teaching staff- Journalists and broadcasters- Justice officials- Charity workers- Local and national government administrators- Workers involved in the food supply chain- Armed forces personnel, firefighters, and policemen- Oil and gas engineers- Communication workers
Why have UK rail services been nationalised?
With economic instability threatening to topple some of the country’s biggest rail operators, the Department for Transport (DfT) said it will suspend “normal franchise agreements” for six months.
The decision will effectively transfer all revenue and costs to the government, though operators will continue to run day-to-day services.
Rail chiefs hope the franchise suspension will minimise disruption to the transport sector, judging that allowing train companies to collapse would be significantly worse for the UK economy.
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, said he had made the decision “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,” he added.
Can I get a refund on advance and season tickets?
The government’s decision will also protect anyone with booked tickets, allowing them to refund the cost free of charge.
Season ticket holders will also be able to claim a refund, though it can only be made for time unused on their tickets. The DfT said there would be no charge for cancelling.
It is not yet clear how the refund system will work.
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.What caused coronavirus?The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.How is it spread?As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But, similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.What are the symptoms?The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.What precautions can be taken?Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.Government adviceAs of Monday 16 March the government advised that everyone should be observing social distancing - avoiding unnecessary travel and working from home where possible. Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms now needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.The government has now instructed bars, restaurants and theatres to close and will review on a ‘month to month’ basis. Schools closed from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future, and exams have been cancelled.The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate. People with serious underlying health conditions will be contacted and strongly advised to undertake "shielding" for 12 weeks.For more information on government advice, please check their website.Should I avoid public places?The advice now is to avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.What should I do if I feel unwell?Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.When to call NHS 111NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS