What is Govia Thameslink Railway doing to help NHS workers during coronavirus pandemic?

Govia Thameslink Railway is doing what it can to help provide a service for NHS workers.

Govia Thameslink Railway is doing what it can to help provide a service for NHS workers. - Credit: Archant

Train operators say they are doing everything they can to maintain a reliable service for NHS workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has made around 20 changes to passenger services across the Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern network, and are working to introduce a further 12 services this week, on routes and at times when key workers and their employers have said they need more capacity.

This is either because they needed a service at a certain time of day, or more space to maintain social distancing at relatively busy times.

Most of these changes have added complete services, but include some additional carriages and stops.

For Thameslink, GTR has introduced an extra early morning train from Peterborough to Horsham to help people living in and around the Hitchin area, from where a large number of key workers commute.

Other improvements are mainly on Southern metro services in south London, where there are several hospitals, on East Sussex coastal routes, and along the Arun Valley between Three Bridges and Bognor Regis. These additional Arun Valley trains are particularly to serve employees of an important NHS supplier, Hydrochem, who manufacture a large proportion of the UK’s hospital disinfectants.

There is now a direct morning Southern train from Sutton to London Bridge for workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospitals, who wrote to GTR asking if the company could help them avoid having to change trains at busy junctions, thereby protecting them from unnecessary risk of infection. The train operator added the service as soon as possible and is also looking to add a return evening service.

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Mike Paterson, network operations director for Govia Thameslink Railway and Network Rail, said: “Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have worked with hospitals, NHS suppliers, passengers and other stakeholders to make sure our timetable matches the needs of key workers. Their input was included in the planning of our reduced timetable. Since it was introduced we have responded to further feedback, making around 20 service improvements to help passengers get to and from work with the space to maintain social distancing. We are working to bring in a further 12 services next week.

“Social distancing is being monitored by using a newly-developed live passenger count data feed which comes direct from our Thameslink and Great Northern Moorgate trains.

“We are committed to providing a safe and reliable service for those in critical roles during this crisis and continue to welcome feedback. We at GTR are with our passengers, every step of the way.”

Unfortunately requests to introduce free car parking for NHS workers have not been implemented.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “Key workers, like doctors and nurses, are doing an incredible job now more than ever. But they rely on railway staff, like train drivers and signallers, who have also been designated as key workers, and the industry needs to be able to afford to pay those staff. Ultimately, money paid from fares and parking goes towards keeping the railway running at this vital time.”