I have received the update below from South Western Railway’s Managing Director, Mark Hopwood.
I wanted to update you on the work South Western Railway has been carrying out in dealing with the Coronavirus and keeping key workers moving during this critical time.
Following on from the changes to the train service timetable we made last week, we have made further adjustments to our revised timetable, with extra early morning and later evening trains to better meet key workers’ travel patterns. We have also this week made further contact with key stakeholders, including NHS trusts, supermarket distribution centres, and emergency services across our network to check our timetable is meeting their transportation needs.
Our priority is to keep our trains running for the essential service workers who have to get to work, while keeping everyone safe and helping prevent the spread of the virus. This includes adapting our cleaning regime with our heavy cleaning programme suspended so the team can concentrate on disinfecting trains, with a particular focus on key touchpoints such as handrails, door buttons and toilets. As well as overnight cleaning we have extended the turnround times of trains to allow additional cleaning, bringing in off-track staff and trainees to help disinfect the trains whilst they are in service. The reduction in the number of train services has allowed the team to concentrate their efforts on the trains still running and so help keep customers and colleagues alike safe.
We have also closed our waiting rooms and are making announcements on trains and at stations to promote social distancing among those who have no option but to travel, while using all available communication channels to advise against non-essential travel and urge people to save lives and stay home.
Following Government advice, we have advised many of our non-operational colleagues to work from home and are restricting the activities of our customer contact centre. Unfortunately this has temporarily hampered our ability to handle refunds, however we are currently putting plans in place to allow us to restart this process very soon; although it will take some considerable time for us to work through the backlog of outstanding claims.
I know that refunds have been a major concern for many customers and I am pleased that the industry has this week announced some further policy changes which will alleviate some of those concerns such as extending the refund window from 28 day to 56 days, helping those who may be self-isolating and who feared missing out on a refund. Full details are available on our website.
Throughout this challenging period, we have tried to keep everyone updated through all available channels, including twitter, our website, station customer information screens, and stakeholder emails like this one. We have, and will continue to, take on board feedback about our services and how we can best meet the needs of not just those key workers, but also of those customers who are no longer travelling and need to change their plans.
We recognise that together with Network Rail we have a vital role to play in keeping the country moving and I am exceptionally proud of how my colleagues at South Western Railway, particularly those on the frontline, have risen to the challenge and are just getting on with the job of running our railway.
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