More trains planned – but still likely to be only for essential travellers

The new Bombardier Aventra train on test stands on the right next to a Stadler bimode train picking

The new Bombardier Aventra train on test stands on the right next to a Stadler bimode train picking up passengers on Platform 2 at Ipswich station in this picture by train driver and instagram user @deanbarnesphotography. Picture: DEAN BARNES - Credit: Archant

More trains will be operating on rail routes across the country from Monday week, May 18, but not a full service – and they are likely to continue to be for key workers doing essential jobs only.

Rail companies, including Greater Anglia, are looking at ways of introducing social distancing on trains and while passengers get on and off trains – but general rail transport still seems likely to be a long way off.

If current social distancing rules were applied to trains, they would only be able to operate at 12%-20% capacity which would mean services were not economically viable.

However from May 18 the number of trains running will increase to about 70% of normal. Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles said this would effectively be an enhanced Saturday service.

Staff were still working out how to enforce social distancing, but he said they had experience of dealing with different passenger needs. However in the past this had generally been dealing with large numbers of passengers who had crowded on to busy trains as had been seen after the Ed Sheeran concerts in Ipswich last August.

Some further guidance on public transport may come in the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Sunday evening – but it is thought unlikely that there will be a general relaxation because of the dangers of spreading coronavirus.

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Meanwhile Greater Anglia is continuing to test its new Bombardier Aventra suburban train around the region and this week it was at rest in the “middle road” at Ipswich station while waiting for regular service trains to pass.

This picture of the first new train on test was taken by Greater Anglia driver Dean Barnes whose Twitter and Instagram accounts record life on the region’s rail network.

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The first of the new Aventras is due to enter service later this year – but they will illustrate the problem that the rail companies have with social distancing. They are designed to carry a large number of passengers on relatively short journeys at high density.

To try to enforce the current two-metre social distancing rules would mean that these trains would be only able to carry a fraction of the number of passengers they were designed for.

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