1. Transport
May 8, 2020

UK rail industry preparing for increase in services

By Jonn Elledge

The UK off work today – even more so than we’ve all been of late – taking a holiday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. So the news here is relatively quiet. 

But a couple of developments do seem worth noting. Firstly, the BBC reports that Britain’s rail services are to be increased, in order to ensure the network can cope when people return to work. 

During lockdown, only around 50% of timetabled services have been running. But on Monday 18 May this will rise to around 70% – the maximum level of service rail operators can provide given staff availability. 

The increase in services is likely to be more visible on commuter routes than intercity ones. But how soon the people of Britain will be using them still remains to be seen, because earlier today a cabinet minister seemed to pour water on the widespread reports that lockdown would begin to be lifted next week.

“People should not expect big changes from the prime minister on Sunday,” said culture secretary Oliver Dowden, referring to the speech in which Boris Johnson is expected to announce the loosening of certain restrictions. “But what they should expect, and this is what people have been asking for some time, tell us where we’re going. Give us a road map ahead.”

How this caution fits with the newspaper front pages using words like “rejoice”, to communicate that Britain would soon start to reopen – stories so widespread that it looks a lot like they were briefed by someone in government – is not currently clear.

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