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Transport for the North welcomes emergency measures to secure rail services

Monday 23rd March 2020

Transport for the North welcomes the emergency measures introduced by Government today to secure rail services for essential travel only.

Department for Transport said it will suspend normal rail franchise agreements in a move aimed at preventing rail companies from collapsing during the coronavirus crisis.

In the North, this applies to TransPennine Express where all cost and revenue risk will be transferred to Government for an initial period of 6 months.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said he wanted to protect “key workers” who rely on trains to carry out their “vital roles”.

It comes as TransPennine Express introduces its emergency timetable today and Northern is expected to introduce its revised timetable from tomorrow.

A statement from Transport for the North said: “It is vital, at this time, that key workers can rely on core transport services to get them to where they need to be.

“Rail franchises, such as TransPennine Express, need to know they can continue to operate core services with appropriate support from Government.”

The Department for Transport said railways have already seen up to a 70% drop in passenger numbers, with rail fares revenue reducing as people increasingly work from home and adopt social distancing, and total ticket sales down by two-thirds from the equivalent date in 2019.

“Transport for the North fully supports the Government’s position on the rail services being used for essential travel only at this time,” Transport for the North’s statement continued.

“Everyone has a moral duty to observe social distancing guidelines in order to help preserve life.

“Transport for the North recognises the huge efforts that are being made behind the scenes to keep essential rail routes open for key workers and we will continue to support this work through both the Rail North Partnership and our work with Government, Network Rail and the operators.”

The Government has also said passengers who have already purchased an advance ticket will be eligible for a refund without any charge.

Those holding a season ticket that they no longer wish to use will also be eligible for a partial refund from their rail operators.

Transport for the North’s statement added: “Ensuring that trains necessary for key workers and essential travel can continue to operate is a key move in helping deal with this crisis.

“Temporarily suspending normal franchise agreements and transferring all revenue and cost risks to the government for a limited period helps ensure this can happen without the risk of insolvency.”