How East Anglian train operators are helping passengers get back on track as lockdown eases

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail Anglia route director, at a quiet Liverpool Street Station during lockdo

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail Anglia route director, at a quiet Liverpool Street Station during lockdown - Credit: Archant

Network Rail Anglia route director Ellie Burrows, and Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles thank passengers for only travelling by train when necessary during lockdown and explain some of the new measures they have in place at stations

We never expected to be in a position where we thanked passengers for staying away, but that’s exactly where we are in these strange times. Staying away from public transport for those that can, is really the very best thing they can do, and it’s meant that those that really need the trains, can rely on them. Thank you to every person who has not made an unnecessary journey, helping protect our staff and other passengers from this horrible and unrelenting virus. Please, if you don’t need to use the trains, continue to find an alternative and help save lives.

We’ve also never previously had to make the efforts we have in helping keep those travelling apart. Crowd management is something we’re used to - not a surprise to anyone who’s been at London Liverpool Street station on a busy Friday night - but helping people stay two metres apart to observe social distancing guidelines is a completely new experience for our teams, and we’ve had to think very differently about how we support this.

We’ve made a lot of changes at our biggest stations, including at Liverpool Street, to help those travelling socially distance, to help keep the virus spread at bay. A mix of new signage, floor vinyls, announcements, special customer information screen messages, one way systems, enhanced cleaning programmes and more staff are in place to help those travelling keep safe. Trains are being thoroughly cleaned, with an increased cleaning team providing an extra focus on key touch points such as buttons, grab rails and door handles, as well as using special “fogging guns” to help clean larger areas such as carriage saloons or vestibules.

We know you’re doing your bit too, by wearing a face covering, travelling only when essential, looking at alternative times to travel if you can and buying your tickets in advance or paying using contactless methods. Thank you and please keep this going, as we can only maintain social distancing and fight this virus together.

We’re extremely proud that, during this unprecedented time, the railway has enabled people to get to hospitals across East Anglia and London where they are so badly needed. That police officers, firefighters, ambulance crews and all the other emergency service and public service workers, as well as teachers, supermarket workers and our own transport staff, have been able to rely on the trains to keep running to get them to work. We know also that keeping freight services running has helped keep supermarket shelves stocked and enabled vital goods get to stores to keep the economy moving.

In the last week, to help aid the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, train operators across the East Anglia and Greater London regions have started to increase their services, to something more akin to a Saturday service. You might ask why we are doing this when government advice is still to avoid public transport unless absolutely essential?

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To help protect the public, we significantly reduced our services many weeks ago but flicking the switch to get them back on, isn’t as simple. It takes weeks of planning behind the scenes to get ready for an alternative timetable, get staff and trains in the right places and be sure that our trains are ready to re-enter service. This staged approach is important in helping us return to a time when we are needed to run a full service and helping to enable social distancing in the meantime.

We are also monitoring train services on a daily basis, to see if we need to make other incremental changes to service capacity or frequency along the way.

With the current social distancing guidelines, even an increase in services means we can only take around a tenth of the number of passengers as before, so there will be challenges to come as the country starts moving again and passenger numbers start to rise. It may be that we ask you to change the way in which you travel for some time yet. But we know that we can count on you to do your bit to help us all beat this.

We will get through this period and we are looking forward to welcoming many more of you back to the railway when it is safe to do so.

Until then, thanks for your support and thanks to our teams who are doing a great job of delivering a reliable service for those who do need to travel at the moment.