Throughout the current Coronavirus outbreak, colleagues across South Western Railway have been working hard to keep the country moving for their fellow key workers and those that need to travel.
They have also been ensuring that those who do need to travel, can do so safely. For example, when cleaning, they have been paying particular attention to commonly touched surfaces such as ticket machines, grab handles, and door buttons. Additionally, to reduce interaction between colleagues and customers we are not currently accepting cash payments at our ticket offices and ticket machines and encouraging customers where ever possible, to buy on line.
As you know, on 10 May the Prime Minister updated the nation on the road map for coming out of lockdown and recovering the economy. The first step along this road, which started yesterday, was for people to return to work if they could not work from home, meaning an increase in those using our services. However, the Prime Minister also urged people to avoid public transport and so we were not expecting, and have not seen, a dramatic uplift in passengers yet. Nevertheless, I want you to be aware of the additional steps we are putting in place to ensure that those who do need to travel, can so safely.
We are in the process of introducing measures to promote social distancing on our stations and trains, through posters and floor markings and vinyls, as well as through audio announcements and digital media. While we will do everything we can to help passengers respect social distancing; as the Government itself acknowledges, there may be some points on a journey where it is just not possible, such as when boarding or alighting trains.
We’re also encouraging our customers to follow the advice of Government and only travel on our services for essential journeys where other modes of transport are not available. Where customers do need to travel, we are asking them to plan ahead, follow social distancing guidance where possible, follow Government advice on face coverings, and to purchase their ticket online to reduce interaction with our colleagues.
Recognising that the coming days may see more customers return to work, from Monday 18 May, we will be making some increases to capacity. Although we will still be operating a reduced service, some routes will see services reinstated for the first time since lockdown began, with other routes benefiting from longer services or some extra services at peak times. Despite these improvements, with social distancing in place, capacity will be vastly reduced, so we are urging our customers to consider alternative means of transport for getting to work, with our services only being used where there is no other option.
It is strange to find ourselves directing people away from the railway, but that is unfortunately what we have to do at present as we try to keep both customers and colleagues safe.
I also wanted to keep you updated on the progress we are making with tackling the huge number of refund requests we have had. We have now received around 29,000 requests for refunds, and through their hard work, our refund team have processed more than half of those requests. We are continuing to look at how we can speed up this process to deliver passengers their refunds quicker, as we know many of them will have seen dramatic changes to their personal circumstances since lockdown began.
I hope the above information is useful to you. I will of course keep you updated as the situation develops. Thank you for your continued support.
South Western Railway