Transport User Voice – October 2020 – Around Great Britain
29 September 2020
Looking at London, Wales and Scotland
In August, London TravelWatch launched an active travel campaign to encourage Londoners to provide feedback on the various changes made to streets by Transport for London and local councils, which are designed to help make walking and cycling easier and safer during the current pandemic and beyond. Londoners can now visit a dedicated website section, or sign up to join a growing community of people who want to make travelling around London as safe and easy as possible.
London TravelWatch also published a series of travel hacks which aimed to help transport users wanting to travel north to south across London without using the Tube. It had long been calling for Thameslink services to appear on the Tube map and early this year the London Assembly Transport Committee called for Transport for London to make this a reality by the end of August 2020. But with TfL unwilling to do this, London TravelWatch decided to include a map of Thameslink services with Tube stations drawn on top, in a series of travel hacks designed to make it easier for people to travel around London safely and avoid busy routes and stations this summer and beyond.
And the good news is that using lesser-known stations rather than busy ones, and taking the bus rather than the Tube, might also save you time and money!
Mandatory face coverings were extended more generally to shops and other indoor public locations on 14 September, bringing it more in line with measures adopted across the border. Bus operators have been reminding passengers to wear a face covering unless they are exempt. Cardiff Bus, for example, has added face covering artwork to some of its buses and is employing staff to ensure compliance with the use of face coverings (unless exempt) to provide reassurance to passengers.
Localised restrictions have been imposed upon six counties in Wales (Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, Newport, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil) with several others on a watch list. This will invariably impact on passengers using public transport. Clarity of information for those needing to travel is of utmost importance. We will be reviewing operator websites to make sure information is clear as part of our reassurance work. We are also monitoring information sources on an ongoing basis as Welsh Government advice changes to ensure they provide clear, accurate advice.
Due to the current two metre social distancing advice in Wales, some stops where there are short platforms had been removed from certain services which has impacted negatively on passengers. We have been pressing Transport for Wales and Transport for Wales Rail to ensure that risk assessments are reviewed so stops can be reinstated where it is safe to do so. The recent reinstatement of the stop at Earlestown is an example of where our work here has paid off for passengers.
Edinburgh-Glasgow, through Falkirk High
The vital railway line linking Scotland’s two largest cities reopened for passengers on Monday 21 September. Engineers worked around the clock to repair the line which was partially washed away near Polmont when the Union Canal burst its banks in August. The scale of the challenge of repairing the damage was huge as the force of thousands of gallons of water flowing from the breached canal bank washed away sections of track and undermined the railway’s embankments along a 300 metre stretch of the line.
Over the last six weeks, engineers had to completely rebuild the foundations of the line, replacing more than 15,000 tonnes of soil and stone beneath the track. A kilometre of new double-track railway has also been laid, consisting of more than 4500 metres of new rails and 4424 concrete sleepers along with 10,000 tonnes of new ballast requiring 27 engineering trains. Over 3000 metres of signalling cables have been re-laid and two new twin track overhead power gantries installed.
The Scottish Government has awarded over £9.75 million to 19 bus and coach operators to retrofit 594 vehicle exhausts in 2020/21. This step will reduce harmful emissions and air pollution which damages health.
Scottish businesses that specialise in exhaust retrofitting will also benefit – helping to drive a green recovery out of the Covid-19 crisis, whilst improving air quality and supporting the programme for Government commitment to introduce Low Emission Zones in Scotland’s four biggest cities.
Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA)
The EMAs have been extended for both ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper until January 2021. Transport Scotland estimates that Covid-19 has imposed additional costs of £250 million on the taxpayer for operating the ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises during the initial six-month EMA. Discussions on a longer-term agreement beyond January 2021 are due to begin soon.
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