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Railway companies defend decision to cancel trains

Rail companies have defended their decision to suspend hundreds of daily trains amid the coronavirus-related staff shortage.

The industry association Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said the introduction of emergency timetables with reduced frequencies would create a more reliable service and fewer short-term outages.

It added that the move would also provide “better value for taxpayers” by reflecting decreased demand for travel.

In the run-up to Christmas, the operators offered “as many services as possible” to support festive trips, according to the group.

But several companies have now cut the number of trains after working with the government to create revised timetables because around 10% of rail staff are absent from work.

The new timetables focus on rush hour traffic to provide trains for key workers, students and those unable to work from home.

ScotRail launched a temporary weekday schedule this week that cuts more than 150 daily connections.

Southern will not serve London Victoria until next week, while CrossCountry has removed around 50 trains per day from its schedules.

A number of other operators also offer discounted services, including the London North Eastern Railway, Greater Anglia and TransPennine Express.

Susie Homan, Director of People, Operations and Railway Strategy at RDG, said, “The temporary timetables that government-funded rail companies are setting up will help ensure more reliable services with fewer short-term cancellations so we can keep people and goods going wherever they are needed.

“The government has backed the railways with over £ 15 billion since the pandemic began, and it makes sense to better match the number of trains moving with the number of people traveling so the industry can get the most out of everyone.” Taxpayers pound and take no more than their fair share of public money. “

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of Watchdog Transport Focus, said:

The change in schedules is a pragmatic response to the increasing sickness of staff as it prevents chaotic last-minute failures. However, services must continue to respond to the needs of those who need to travel, particularly workers in key sectors. Operators need to protect the first and last service, provide enough space to keep a safe distance between passengers, and provide flexibility to allow tickets to be used on alternative routes or times.

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