Relying on rail

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Over the years, I have written frequently about the importance of railway networks in moving holidaymakers around our countries. That they are essential for commuting to work goes without question but what will their future be like in the aftermath of coronavirus?

The proposed DB train that will link the UK and Germany at some stage in the next few years. Will long distance trains now operate in this era of coronavirus?

Supposing it takes another year or eighteen months to develop and effective vaccine, how can railways and tram networks survive?

In France the boss of the metro in Paris, Catherine Guillouard said last Friday that the transport authorities were working towards having 70% of the Paris transport network up and running by May 11th. All employees have been supplied with face masks.

But Guillouard made it clear that social distancing will be impossible. She is reported by France 24 as saying that it wouldn’t be feasible to operate it because if they did the metro could cope with only about 2 million trips per day.

Come the time when London, Glasgow, Manchester, Nottingham, Edinburgh and other places heavily reliant on rail start carrying passengers and they will face the same dilemma.

The success story of railways usage such as the Scottish Borders line may be in for a shock for a year or two, maybe longer if people permanently change their habits.

But for holidaymakers, the option will probably be to drive because a family in a car is a safer option.

At the weekend, the transport consultants, SYSTRA suggested that rail use could drop by 27% due to things like people working from their own home and driving to work. That is before holidaymakers consider whether they shall use rail.

For short journeys, predominantly commuter trips, a mask will give some potential protection. But what of the longer journeys taken by holidaymakers? A trip from Merseyside to Devon will take about five hours, maybe more and a journey from the Midlands to the Scottish Highlands will take about well over seven hours.

Will holidaymakers want to sit on a train in close proximity to other passengers for that length of time?

It isn’t if trains offer a lot of space between passengers. Could they afford to remove some seats? I would probably be told that was a daft suggestion.

But train companies have to come up with some solution otherwise the only crowded areas will be the road and motorway network.

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