Passengers still staying off trains despite change to government advice

PUBLISHED: 16:54 30 July 2020

Now anyone can travel on Greater Anglia - if the wear a face covering. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Now anyone can travel on Greater Anglia - if the wear a face covering. Picture: PAUL GEATER


Despite changes to the rules on public transport two weeks ago, few passengers have returned to the region’s trains after the lockdown period.

There are still few people travelling by train. Picture: Nathan Long/Greater AngliaThere are still few people travelling by train. Picture: Nathan Long/Greater Anglia

Since March trains have been running only for essential users – people who needed them to get to work, educational establishments, or for medical appointments. But two weeks ago the official guidance changed allowing anyone who needed to use public transport could, providing they wore a face covering.

MORE: Travel restrictions eased

However the number of people travelling on Greater Anglia trains has only increased marginally – and most services are running with only 15-20% of seats occupied.

A spokeswoman for the company said: “We have seen a very slight increase in the number of people using off-peak services, but it is very small and there is certainly no problem with social distancing on most of our services.

“On the peak-time trains there really hasn’t been any increase at all – most people do not seem to be travelling back to work yet.”

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Greater Anglia, like all the country’s rail companies, has stepped up its cleaning regimes in an attempt to ensure carriages are as safe as possible – and passengers are encouraged to socially distance from people that they are not travelling with.

A near-normal service is now running with services being subsidised heavily by the government because ticket revenue is now much smaller than usual.

Government support continues until September – but a new deal is expected to come in then to ensure rail companies are able to carry on operating despite the decline in passenger numbers.

MORE: New era likely for rail travel after coronavirus crisis

Services have become more reliable over the last few months with more trains running on time and the number of cancellations falling to a very low number.

At present rail companies are not actively marketing their trains for leisure travellers – but that could start during the autumn if there is not another serious increase in the number of Covid-19 cases reported across the country.

But it is thought unlikely that the number of travellers will return to anything like those reported before the pandemic for a considerable time – especially if many commuters are able to continue working at home even after all the restrictions are lifted.

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