Rail (UK)

Min­is­ter stresses safety of rail travel

- Chris Heaton-Harris · London and North Eastern Railway · Govia Thameslink Railway · Govia

Rail is “un­be­liev­ably safe”, Rail Min­is­ter Chris Heaton-Har­ris told MPs at a Trans­port Select Com­mit­tee meet­ing to dis­cuss the fund­ing of the in­dus­try on Novem­ber 18 (see pages 10-11).

Ruth Cad­bury MP had said: “I would be re­luc­tant to sit next to, or at a ta­ble op­po­site, some­body not in my fam­ily for two or three hours on a long-dis­tance train jour­ney. I un­der­stand that some train com­pa­nies want all seats to be avail­able for sale.”

How­ever, Heaton-Har­ris re­sponded: “The walk-up mar­ket is very im­por­tant in gen­eral terms. A lot of our long-dis­tance op­er­a­tors now re­quire a reser­va­tion. LNER most cer­tainly does.”

He had ear­lier ex­plained the on­go­ing sci­en­tific work re­gard­ing the in­dus­try’s safety, adding: “If you look at SAGE’s re­ports so far, very few cases have been iden­ti­fied of COVID be­ing trans­mit­ted on public trans­port. If you look at the clean­ing regimes and the prac­tice now on trains, there has been an ex­tra­or­di­nary change in the course of the last few months.”

Sup­port­ing the Min­is­ter’s claim is the work of train op­er­a­tors across the com­pany.

Govia Thames­link Rail­way is treat­ing its trains with a lon­glast­ing viru­cide, and re­vealed on Novem­ber 16 that in­de­pen­dent lab­o­ra­tory re­sults, us­ing sam­ples from ran­domly se­lected car­riages from across its eight fleets, showed that after 23 days there was no trace of the virus.

At South­east­ern, swab tests at 20 of its busiest sta­tions re­vealed no traces of COVID-19, the op­er­a­tor con­firmed on Novem­ber 17.

The op­er­a­tor has spent

£400,000 on ad­di­tional clean­ing mea­sures across its net­work, as well as launch­ing a new SeatFin­der ser­vice that uses train load weight data to help pas­sen­gers plan jour­neys and so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

And Greater Anglia con­firmed that ev­ery test car­ried out on its trains for COVID-19 has so far come back neg­a­tive.

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