While passenger services have been cut back due to the Coronavirus epidemic, rail’s freight services have been carrying on regardless.
On the Great Western main line alone, in the past week more than 370,000 tonnes of freight has been moved between west London and Cornwall and into and across Wales to support the economy, the NHS, petrol at the pumps and food in shops.
Network Rail teams have kept the railway open throughout the coronavirus outbreak and have put steps in place to ensure key workers can get to their critical jobs and to move thousands of tonnes of vital supplies by freight.
Reducing the passenger timetable, while keeping a reliable service in operation to get key workers, such as NHS staff, to work, has allowed more freight trains to run to meet demand.
The 370,000 freight tonnes that were moved in the last week included 1,200 tonnes every day of food and medicine for shops, 2,000 tonnes every day of tinplate from Llanelli to create food cans and petroleum products from south Wales to keep the railway’s vital supply chain moving. The amount of food being moved on the railway by freight across Wales and between west London and Cornwall has increased by 20%.
Alongside the increases in food shipments, trains have also performed a vital service in removing household waste from major cities, including London.
Rail workers, including Network Rail’s maintenance teams, are listed as key workers by the government and they are working hard to keep other key workers moving and the freight flowing.
Mark Langman, managing director for Network Rail’s Wales and Western region, said: “I am incredibly proud of the role Network Rail teams have played in keeping our railway open for key workers and critical freight supplies.
“Without them we wouldn’t have been able to help the NHS or other emergency staff get to their places of work and we wouldn’t have been able to help keep power stations going, petrol at the pumps, medicines available and vital supplies in our shops.
“It has been a challenge particularly operating and maintaining the railway where colleagues are required in the workplace. We have had to reduce some of our work to prioritise vital supplies and key workers. We are working closely with government and transport partners and will continue to do so.”