A Safe Day Out
There has been a great deal of comment in the railway press lately, about the prospects for a recovery of passenger railways, and, to read some articles, it is all doom and gloom. Therefore, members of your committee decided to test the waters by making rail journeys specifically to check out the current situation, for example about observance of social distancing, and to see if things are as black as they are painted.
So, 4 of us launched ourselves from Moor Street on a stormy Tuesday, and headed for Coventry, via Leamington. The Class 168 unit had been suitably treated for Covid, in that at least 75% had been taped with the logo 'Keep this seat free to maintain social distancing where possible'. Unfortunately, even though the train was only around 25% full, it meant that there were not enough seats available, and people were sat in them anyway. Everyone on the train, please note, wore a mask, including the conductor, who sat in our compartment 3 rows away. I think we all felt quite safe.
Having arrived at Leamington on time, we bought tickets to Coventry, waited on the platform for the 12.01 to Nuneaton, to be told that there was a tree on the line and our service was likely to be cancelled. So, back to the ticket office, where our purchases were refunded without question. Back we went then, on the 8 car Voyager to New Street, diverted now via Solihull. We were keen to see how the alleged CrossCountry policy of 'booked tickets only' would work. Surprisingly, perhaps, no seats were taped or blocked in any way, though there were 'Reserved' images on the overhead panels.
In fairness, the 8-car was about 25% full at our end, so there was no problem. The train continued to Manchester, and it was noticed that, as far as Wolverhampton, it got to about 40% patronage.
To summarise, then, it has been shown that it appears to be safe to travel off-peak for leisure purposes on trains in our region. Tickets were not inspected on any journey, which is a dodgers' charter. Many travellers were families and young people.
So, we urge the Railway Companies to cease telling people not to travel, and to get back to business (safely) as soon as possible. Our railway system was going from strength to strength until Covid struck, and we need to counteract the negativity which seems to pervade the media and carry on our Campaign to develop and improve our rail operations.
Ian Jenkins, Chair.