Train timetables across UK to be stripped back to 'core' service in response to coronavirus outbreak
Train timetables across the UK are to be stripped back to just a core service for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said services would still be available for "keyworker heroes" such as NHS staff, as well as those with medical appointments, but effectively cancelled for the rest of the population.
Freight services will also continue to ensure the movement of essential goods and supplies around the country.
The emergency move, which will kick in on Monday, follows talks between the Government and rail operators.
Demand for rail services has reduced by around 70% since the start of the coronavirus outbreak as people cut back on all but essential travel.
Grant Shapps said: “We are taking decisive action to protect the public which means reducing travel for the time being, whilst still ensuring keyworker heroes can get to their jobs to keep this nation running.
“For passengers in crucial roles, including essential workers in our emergency services and NHS, alongside people who need to attend medical appointments or care for loved ones, these changes protect the services they rely on.
“Our railways are at the heart of this country’s transport links, and we continue to work closely with the industry to develop measures that protects operators in these challenging times.”
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “At a time of extraordinary national challenge, the measures rail companies are putting in place with government will preserve services so that we can continue to get key workers to where they need to be, deliver food to supermarkets and get fuel to power stations.
“This is not a decision we take lightly, however implementing these measures now will mean that we can continue to operate trains over a prolonged period with fewer railway workers, who like so many others are to be commended for putting the needs of the country first, and whose safety remains front of mind."
SUPERMARKETS COME TOGETHER
Meanwhile, the Government is temporarily suspending competition laws to allow supermarkets to work together to ensure there is enough food in their stores during the crisis.
It will allow the stores to share data on stock levels, and allow them to work together to keep shops open.
The move comes after a wave of panic buying led to empty shelves across the country.
Ministers have also temporarily relaxed rules around drivers’ hours so retailers can deliver more food to stores, and is waiving the 5p plastic bag charge for online purchases to speed up deliveries.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: "We’ve listened to the powerful arguments of our leading supermarkets and will do whatever it takes to help them feed the nation.
"By relaxing elements of competition laws temporarily, our retailers can work together on their contingency plans and share the resources they need with each other during these unprecedented circumstances.
“We welcome the measures supermarkets are already taking to keep shelves stocked and supply chains resilient, and will continue to support them with their response to coronavirus.”