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UK Rail: The Route out of Lockdown

May 10, 2020

As the UK Government announces the first stages of a plan for the relaxation of lockdown, the country can begin to plot a gradual return to economic and social activity.

But until there is a vaccine, the route out of lockdown will be based on minimising the risks of COVID-19 – and that creates a pressing challenge for transport operators. Despite the Prime Minister’s plea to avoid public transport wherever possible, many people will have limited alternatives. Therefore how soon will the severely restricted levels of capacity on trains, tubes and buses be overwhelmed? When that happens, what can be done to keep customers safe? And if transport operators cannot convince people that they are safe to travel and go back to work, how can the Government hope to restart the economy?

Matt Lovering, Teneo’s Global Head of Transport, comments: “The Prime Minister has said that people should avoid transport if at all possible.  However, that is not a plan to reopen the country, it’s simply an admission that the Government has not worked out how to make public transport safe. Given that this crisis is going to be with us for at least 12 months, this highlights the importance of developing a detailed plan which ensures safe operation, effectively manages demand and ensures the transport network can support the economic and social recovery.”

Our analysis turns the Prime Minister’s plan into an indicative profile for the ramp-up in demand for rail services and compares it to capacity available on the rail network under social distancing. This analysis shows the balance of supply and demand is going to be extremely tight, with train services on the day of lockdown release already being over 2.5 times over-subscribed. By July, this grows to over three times more demand than there is safe capacity to carry (assuming hospitality and some leisure facilities begin to reopen). As each element of economic and social activity returns, so we will see available capacity being squeezed further and further.

Train operators need to be ready to manage this balance with precision. Managing Directors must consider how they will temporarily re-shape their organisations to deliver an ongoing crisis response – ensuring that clear, quality insight is available to support decision-making on a daily basis over the coming months. Delivery will need to be transformed in very short order, across almost every area of the business – from the way tickets are sold, through to how we move passengers safely through exit barriers.

Successful navigation of the crisis will require decisive leadership, clear and rapid insight, and precise execution. Our new paper, The Route Out of Lockdown, provides the key highlights from our analysis and our thoughts on how rail operators should respond.

Please click the download button below to view the full paper.

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