UK railway news roundup

Grant Shapps: Key workers 'will have space to be safe' on rail services

The coronavirus situation continues to cause chaos in the rail and transport industry as the UK faces lockdown. Services are slashed as demand collapses, social distancing measures are firmly in place and more events and runnings are postponed. Here’s this week’s roundup:

Coronavirus: Police on rail patrol to urge passengers to only make essential journeys

Photo: @ajadmiah2/PA Wire
Photo: @ajadmiah2/PA Wire

Five hundred British Transport Police officers patrolled the railway network yesterday to remind passengers that only essential travel is permitted after the UK was placed under lockdown.

British Transport Police Assistant Chief Constable Sean O’Callaghan said: “The measures announced by the Prime Minister are there to save lives which is part of the work our officers do every day.

“We are supporting rail operators and those key workers making their journeys home tonight by deploying 500 officers across the rail network nationally. Full story.

Thieves target East Lancashire Railway after forced closure

Thieves have stolen up to £10,000 worth of brass and copper fittings from East Lancashire Railway, after a devastating weekend which saw it forced to close due to COVID-19.

The charity is appealing for the public’s help to give it a future after closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, shortly before they were burgled.

The theft – at the railway’s Baron Street site – is no small loss to the East Lancashire Railway, which has already been thrown off track by social distancing and the public being urged to stay away from public gatherings. Full story.

Grant Shapps: Key workers ‘will have space to be safe’ on rail services

Grant Shapps: Key workers 'will have space to be safe' on rail services
Photo: PA Wire

Key workers travelling on trains will have “space to be safe” under plans announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

He made the commitment to tackle overcrowding after concerns were raised about carriages being packed despite social distancing instructions aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Shapps tweeted: “Concerning to see images of packed trains this a.m. The advice is clear: Stay home if possible. That is the way to save lives. Full story.

Coronavirus: Rail franchising suspended, ‘may never return to present form’

Coronavirus

Rail franchise agreements are to be suspended to avoid rail companies collapsing due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced today that franchise agreements to run trains in the UK will be suspended for an initial period of six months.

Operators are being offered the chance to transfer all revenue and cost risk to the Government, and be paid a small management fee to run services. Full story.

Packed crowds reported on Tube, despite coronavirus warning

London Underground staff were left “furious” after services this week remained packed, despite passengers being urged not to travel unless they have a critical job.

Finn Brennan, district organiser for train drivers’ union Aslef, expressed alarm at services which were extremely busy despite advice aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Full story.

Heritage railways trade body welcomes government support

The Seven Valley Railway is among the heritage railways which have ceased operations until further notice. GWR 0-6-0PT No. 7714 is seen arriving at Bewdley station. GARETH EVANS
The Seven Valley Railway is among the heritage railways which have ceased operations until further notice. GWR 0-6-0PT No. 7714 is seen arriving at Bewdley station. GARETH EVANS

The Heritage Railway Association (HRA) has reacted warmly to the package of measures announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak (Conservative, Richmond (Yorks)) this afternoon (Friday, March 20) – although it is seeking clarity on some issues specifically related to heritage rail.

Steve Oates, chief executive of the HRA, the trade body for the UK heritage railway sector, said: “We welcome today’s announcement on support for retaining salaried employees, and the earlier news of a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, and the grant funding geared to rateable values. However, many heritage railways don’t pay business rates, so may not benefit. Full story.

Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways in emergency appeal

Ffestiniog
Photo: Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

The general manager of Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways is urgently appealing for public help, after the railway closes amid the coronavirus situation.

Paul Lewin, who appears in a video message, made the difficult decision to suspend train services in light of government advice. See how you can help.

Blackpool trams to be suspended from Sunday

In happier times, Blackpool Transport's Bombardier Flexity 2 No. 016 is seen at the resort's Pleasure Beach. GARETH EVANS
In happier times, Blackpool Transport’s Bombardier Flexity 2 No. 016 is seen at the resort’s Pleasure Beach. GARETH EVANS

Blackpool Transport has announced it is to temporarily suspend all tram services from Sunday, March 29 until further notice due to the ongoing Coronavirus situation. The Blackpool Council-owned operator is also reducing the frequency of some of its bus routes.

Bus route 1, which parallels the tram line (Fleetwood to Starr Gate), will run to a revised timetable which starts and finishes at the same time as the current tram timetable on a 30-minute frequency. This, Blackpool Transport said, provides a suitable alternative while the tramway is suspended as the service will begin earlier in the day and finish in line with the current tram times. Full story.

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway appeals after ‘cash crisis’

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR), which operates steam and heritage diesel trains over its 14 mile line between Cheltenham and Broadway, is facing a cash crisis – and is appealing for help from supporters.

An embankment slip and the closure of the line because of the Coronavirus outbreak means the railway is unable to fully fund the necessary civil engineering work to repair the damage. This week, the GWSR has launched an emergency appeal for help. Full story.

Mortons Books launch brand new book catalogue brimming with new titles

Mortons Books launch brand new book catalogue brimming with new titles

The people who bring you The Railway Magazine, Heritage Railway and Rail Express have just launched their latest book catalogue – brimming with fantastic new titles to explore while you’re stuck at home.

Among the many new books included is Locomotives of the National Collection by Heritage Railway editor Robin Jones. Delving into the history of legendary steam engines such as Flying Scotsman, Mallard, Stephenson’s Rocket and City of Truro, it is due for release on August 22 and is available for pre-order now. Other titles coming soon from the prolific Mr Jones include History of the Great Central Railway and Steaming over the North Yorkshire Moors. Find out more here.


Get your weekend service updates:

National Rail Service Indicator

National Rail Coronavirus Travel Advice – Do not travel unless it is essential

The health and wellbeing of our passengers and staff is always our top priority. We know passengers may have concerns, and rail companies are working closely with government to take the steps needed to keep our vital services moving while keeping customers safe. 

Southern

Line closed between Lingfield and East Grinstead until Monday 30 March.

Thameslink

Line closed between Lingfield and East Grinstead until Monday 30 March.

Transport For London Status Updates

Thank you to those of you who are following the Government and Mayor’s instructions not to travel unless your journey is absolutely essential.

The number of people using our services has fallen dramatically. But we need even more of you to stop travelling and stay at home. This is critical to fighting the spread of COVID-19, protecting the NHS and maintaining safe and reliable transport for health, logistics and other critical workers. Making non-essential journeys risks lives. 

Please only travel if your journey is absolutely essential. If you do travel, follow the expert advice on hand washing and other health measures. We are operating reduced services and closing a number of stations so that we can keep things running for critical workers. With that in mind, we want to make you aware of the following closures this weekend, 28 and 29 March, and the following week. 

London Underground

There are no planned closures on the Tube this weekend. 

London Overground

On Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 March, there will be no service between:Camden Road and Stratford due to Network Rail track work. For Caledonian Road & Barnsbury, use local bus route 274 to/from Camden Road or walk to/from Highbury & Islington. Rail replacement buses will runRomford and Upminster due to Network Rail track work.

Use local bus routes 165, 248 or 370New Cross Gate and Crystal Palace/West Croydon. This is due to Network Rail track work. Southern Railway rail replacement buses will runOn Saturday 28 March, northbound trains to Chingford will not stop at Bethnal Green between 22:00 and 23:59. Southbound trains to Chingford will not stop at Bethnal Green after 21:45.

This is due to track work. Use Enfield or Cheshunt trains to stop at Bethnal Green, or change at Hackney Downs. On Sunday 29 March, northbound trains to Chingford will not stop at Bethnal Green until 23:35. Southbound trains to Chingford will not stop at Bethnal Green all day. This is due to track work. Use Enfield or Cheshunt trains to stop at Bethnal Green, or change at Hackney Downs. On Sunday 29 March, there will be no service between: Highbury & Islington and New Cross Gate.

This is due to infrastructure work. Rail replacement buses will run between Dalston Kingsland and New Cross GateSurrey Quays and Clapham Junction, due to infrastructure work. Rail replacement buses will run between Canada Water and Clapham JunctionSurrey Quays and New Cross due to infrastructure work. Use local bus route 225. Walk to New Cross Gate for rail replacement buses to Dalston or Crystal Palace/West Croydon 

TfL Rail

On Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 March, there will be no service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. This is due to track work, overhead line enhancement and Crossrail station works. Rail replacement buses will run between Stratford and Romford, and between Newbury Park and Shenfield. 

On Sunday 29 March, trains will not stop at Acton Main Line or West Ealing stations. Trains will be stopping at Langley between 08:00 and 23:00 only. This is due to Network Rail and Crossrail testing. See an overview of planned track closures for the next six months. See the latest status updates on London Overground, DLR, TfL Rail and Trams, including a map of closures and information about rail replacement buses. 

Buses and roads

We are running a reduced service on all bus routes. Due to the following works, some buses may be diverted or stop short of their normal destination. Make sure you check before you travel. We need even more of you to stop travelling and stay at home. 

Please only travel if your journey is absolutely essential. If you must travel, follow the expert advice on hand washing and other health measures. Battersea – Until 25 April, Queenstown Road will have temporary traffic signals in place at the junction with Sopwith Way. This is due to Cadent Gas works. Fulham Road – On Friday 27 and Saturday 28 March, Fulham Road will be closed in both directions between Keldon Road and B317.

This is due to a crane operation. Malden Way – From 07:00 on Monday 30 March until 19:00 on 19 April, Malden Way’s westbound slip road will be closed at the junction of Malden Road. This is due to SGN gas main replacement works. 

Santander Cycles

All Santander Cycles docking station staffed hubs are temporarily closed. Every docking station is still operational and being serviced. All TfL services are now solely focused on ensuring critical workers can move around as needed. You should not be using public transport or travelling for anything other than essential journeys. 

The following docking stations will be out of service this weekend:Hoxton station, Hoxton – due to a power outageKensington Gore, Westminster – due to a power outageSopwith Way, Battersea Park – due to a power outage

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