Search

Rail industry pledges to keep East Anglia’s trains moving during crisis

PUBLISHED: 11:30 08 April 2020

Freight trains continue to move around the country. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR/ARCHANT

Freight trains continue to move around the country. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR/ARCHANT

The boss of Network Rail in East Anglia has outlined how staff are working through the coronavirus crisis to keep trains moving for essential workers and freight travelling around the country.

Network Rail Anglia director Ellie Burrows. Picture: NETWORK RAILNetwork Rail Anglia director Ellie Burrows. Picture: NETWORK RAIL

Ellie Burrows sent the message to staff and to rail users – both passengers and freight operators – to show how much the country was relying on the industry at present, even though the current number of passengers is a tiny fraction of normal.

She warned that some people living near busy freight routes could suffer more disturbance if the number of trains increases to keep important supplies moving around the country.

More on the coronavirus crisis

Passenger trains are now almost deserted - but are vital for essential workers. Picture: Nathan Long/Greater AngliaPassenger trains are now almost deserted - but are vital for essential workers. Picture: Nathan Long/Greater Anglia

Ms Burrows wrote: “We have an important role to play in allowing frontline workers to carry on going to work.

“The country’s focus, understandably, is on the NHS staff - on the doctors and nurses who will care for those struck down by this virus, as well as treating all the other illnesses and ailments that will still require their attention every day.

“We will do our best to make sure they can still get to the hospitals across East Anglia and London where they are so badly needed. Just as we will to support the police officers, firefighters, ambulance crews and all the other emergency service and public service workers.

“But they are not the only people who will carry on depending on trains. People are needed to stock supermarket shelves and sell us food at the tills. We need the local authority workers to keep towns and cities going across the region – and the rest of the country. We need the teachers who are keeping schools open to look after the children of key workers. And we need all those other unnoticed and unsung heroes that we depend on every day, but who we notice less often than we should and appreciate less often than they deserve.”

She warned that the number of services operated could have to change if more rail staff are unable to get to work because of sickness or because they have to self-isolate because of sickness within their family.

But she pledged that, as during wartime, the nation’s railways would continue to operate: “Many are people are saying this is the biggest challenge to face the country since the Second World War. The railways played a vital part in keeping the country moving then, and we will do our very best to do the same now.”

The full text of Ellie Burrows’ statement on the region’s rail services:

You may also want to watch:

The railway has a huge part to play in keeping the country moving through this crisis – but an equally huge challenge to maintain services.

With our train operating partners, we’ve introduced a reduced timetable as the first stage towards allowing us to keep trains running during an unprecedented public health emergency.

We have an important role to play in allowing frontline workers to carry on going to work. The country’s focus, understandably, is on the NHS staff. On the doctors and nurses who will care for those struck down by this virus, as well as treating all the other illnesses and ailments that will still require their attention every day.

We will do our best to make sure they can still get to the hospitals across East Anglia and London where they are so badly needed. Just as we will to support the police officers, firefighters, ambulance crews and all the other emergency service and public service workers.

But they are not the only people who will carry on depending on trains. People are needed to stock supermarket shelves and sell us food at the tills. We need the local authority workers to keep towns and cities going across the region – and the rest of the country. We need the teachers who are keeping schools open to look after the children of key workers. And we need all those other unnoticed and unsung heroes that we depend on every day, but who we notice less often than we should and appreciate less often than they deserve.

Getting those people to work every day will be one half of the vital job the railway will have to do during this crisis. The other will be keeping freight moving. It’s often the invisible service on our network, but it means that we can support places such as the Port of Felixstowe or the London Gateway that carry millions of tonnes of vital goods including medical supplies and food to our towns and cities.

Some people who live near the railway might notice increased noise from freight services, particularly at night. I’d like to apologise in advance, but also ask for their understanding in such an unprecedented situation.

The people who go out every day and night on the railway are already superheroes in my eyes. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t make them immune to getting ill. Some of them will be off sick in the coming weeks.

Many, like me, have young children or ageing parents to worry about. Others are expecting babies. And others have underlying health problems that make them more vulnerable.

But the engineers who maintain our tracks, the signallers who keep trains moving safely, the train drivers and station staff, and all the other vital frontline rail workers will still be going to work every day to do the job the railways were established to do – to support the country.

The timetable we’ve introduced is a direct response to a rapidly changing situation, but I don’t want you to think this is a knee-jerk reaction. We have business continuity plans that are the result of long and meticulous planning. Even so, none of us has faced something of this nature.

It’s important for me to warn you at this point that there might be further reductions in services to come. We are planning on the basis of a certain proportion of our workers being off at any one time, but those figures will rise and fall as the pattern of infection changes.

And we could see isolated and localised issues at crucial parts of our infrastructure – for example at our signal boxes, or our crucial Rail Operations Centres – that will have potentially sudden impacts on specific services. Again, we have plans in place to manage these eventualities, but I can’t guarantee there won’t be problems along the way.

In part, this new timetable is reflecting the huge reduction in demand we have seen since the government’s public health advice changed. It’s not my job to provide public health advice or to tell you whether your journey is essential or not. But it is my job to do everything I can to get you where you need to be, when you need to be there.

Many are people are saying this is the biggest challenge to face the country since the Second World War. The railways played a vital part in keeping the country moving then, and we will do our very best to do the same now.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ipswich Star. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Ipswich Star