Network Rail is planning to restore 80 to 90 per cent of rail services by 18 May, according to Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA).
Information that has reached him shows that Network Rail has begun to consider how to return most staff to workplaces (including office locations) and run a ‘Saturday+’ timetable.
In response, Cortes has raised concerns about the practicality and safety of such moves, both directly to Network Rail and within the Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum.
“We believe that increasing rail services at this point is both impractical and unsafe for our members and the travelling public,” he said. “Only this morning, the Prime Minister made clear that there will be no easing of lockdown restrictions as we were at a very dangerous stage and that ‘social distancing’ will be with us for many months to come.
“How will social distancing be maintained on stations, on trains, and in our railway workplaces? The idea of running close to full train services by mid-May is, quite frankly, ludicrous and dangerous both for our members and our passengers.
“The number of new daily cases of Covid-19 in Britain has remained relatively stable since the end of March and, sadly, we aren’t doing anywhere near enough tests to ease the current lockdown. Until we have a plan for dealing with the crisis as a whole, re-mobilisation of our railway is premature.
“Our union will continue working with our rail industry to develop a framework for re-mobilisation planning, but, until we have a much clearer picture, we will continue to oppose premature and ill-conceived plans by Network Rail and other railway employers to return to business as usual.”