Chiltern Railways are taking active steps to support the national recovery from coronavirus as the economy awakens from lockdown and customers begin to return to the railway. We are boosting the capacity of our services so that those who need to travel can socially distance on trains and at stations. We are also making it easier for our customers to complete their rail journey by walking or cycling and we will soon provide information directly to customers on how busy particular services are to assist their journey-planning.
Although we are increasing the number and length of our services, social distancing means that the overall capacity of our trains is much lower than in normal circumstances. Consequently, we are asking customers to only travel with us if their journey is necessary and if they have no alternative. We are also updating customers on the latest government advice. This includes a new rule that face-coverings must be worn on public transport from 15th June.
Although our capacity is limited, we want to understand the needs and requirements of our stakeholders. Please do get in touch with us concerning your plans for the coming weeks and months so that we can support your aspirations as far as we are able to.
Supporting the recovery
After nearly three months of lockdown, ‘non-essential’ shops will begin to re-open from 15th June. To support this we will from 15th June enhance the capacity of our weekday service by adding additional carriages to some services, with a total of more than 2,000 new seats on the network each day. We have been closely monitoring passenger counts of each of our services at each station on the route, to make sure that social distancing remains feasible onboard as demand increases and to identify priority services in need of a capacity boost.
We are also stepping up our Saturday capacity. This includes over 2,500 new seats on Saturday services from 13th June, with 11 additional services between Aylesbury and Marylebone. We are closely monitoring other key routes, such as Oxford via Bicester and services running through Banbury and into Birmingham, and we will add additional capacity on these when required. For the moment, we are confident that the existing or planned capacity on our lines will be sufficient to handle increased numbers of customers with social distancing from 15th June.
Our commercial tenants will also start to re-open from the 15th June, and we are working closely with them to provide support during what has been an immensely difficult time. Social distancing measures will be implemented at our tenants’ premises as they start to re-open, so customers may want to allow a little more time to buy a coffee for their journey.
Customers who are returning to the railway after lockdown will see that one-way systems and social distancing measures are in place across the network, and hand washing stations have been installed at Marlyebone station. We are asking customers to please follow our advice and guidance on social distancing throughout their journey with us.
Expanding the timetable
We expect ridership to continue to increase as the economic recovery gets underway. As a result we will be introducing a new timetable on 6th July to expand services and capacity further. This will see the restoration of the majority of the services we cut in the emergency timetables at the start of lockdown. I will be sending you full details of the changes planned for this timetable nearer the time.
Our message to customers that they should only travel with us if they have no other alternative will remain in place as long as social distancing onboard services is advised by public health authorities. We will continue to closely monitor usage of our services and make appropriate interventions where necessary to maximise capacity where it is required.
In the coming weeks information on train usage will be made publicly available to customers using journey planners, including our website. Customers will also be able to sign up to National Rail travel alerts via WhatsApp or SMS for updates alerting them to busy trains and stations, helping customers to stagger their journeys and keep safe while travelling. This will help customers to make the best choices about their travelling options and we strongly advise customers sign up for this service when it launches in the coming weeks.
Enabling cycle-rail journeys
We have been hearing from customers that while they are comfortable with the capacity provision onboard our services at present, there is some anxiety about transferring to public transport particularly on journeys into London. For this reason we have taken action to make it easier to complete the last-leg of a rail journey by cycling or walking.
As ever if you have any questions about our service or our plans, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us. As the economy begins to open back up it is more important than ever to share our aspirations and plans so that we can move forward together.