Coronavirus impact on railways: 19 March

RailTech continues to inform about the impact of coronavirus on the rail sector in Europe. Below you can find some highlights of Thursday, 19 March. Earlier, we have published similar updates on Wednesday, 18 March, and Tuesday, 17 March.

Today’s overview starts with the United Kingdom. The country still has rail connections to continental Europe. However, the Eurostar trains run almost empty. This trend is spreading on the domestic rail services within the UK. As for today, the key issue for Britons is the closure of 40 stations of London Underground. The further traffic restrictions for public transport are scheduled for the next days.

Meanwhile, the train operating companies try to maintain the usual schedule. However, they face the same problem as Eurostar does – the decrease in passenger traffic. “We are trying to run things as normal but there is likely to be an announcement later this week as passenger numbers have dropped off,” A spokesman for TransPennine Express said to the Manchester Evening News. Therefore, the operators plan to reduce the number of train connections in the near future.

Gradual restrictions in Switzerland

Up to now, Switzerland has suspended only train connections to Italy. The coronavirus spread forces Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) to move further in introducing further restrictions. On Thursday, 19 March, SBB launches the three-stage train traffic reduction. The first stage has begun today with cancelling all the night trains and international connections. Moreover, Zürich Main Station (Zürich Hauptbahnhof) has been closed for the night-time services. The major cancellations are scheduled for 23 March when some intercity and regional trains including those on the Léman Express network will be suspended. The third stage will start on 26 March with further cancellations.

Norway cancels some projects

Norwegian rail infrastructure manager Bane NOR has cancelled two procurements due to coronavirus. As a result, two planned railway projects will be postponed. “We really regret this situation and welcome all stakeholders back to our projects when the situation allows,” Henning Scheel from the Development Division of Bane NOR said. At the same time, the infrastructure manager has declared its support to the contractors which are working over the ongoing projects.

International trains to Netherlands

From Friday, 20 March, the Intercity trains from Amsterdam to Brussels will only run every hour as well as only between Rotterdam Central and Antwerp Central, with stops in Breda and Noorderkempen. All Eurostar trains to and from the Netherlands expired on Thursday. Train traffic to Germany and France is also affected. Travellers must travel by domestic trains between Brussels and Antwerp and between Rotterdam and Amsterdam. This train will replace the Intercity Amsterdam-Brussels.

The government advises against unnecessary trips abroad, but many people who live and work across the border live in the border area near Breda and Antwerp. With the international intercity between Rotterdam, Breda and Antwerp it remains possible to make the necessary trips in the border area.

All Eurostar trains to and from the Netherlands expired on Thursday, 19 March. There is only very limited train service between Brussels and London. It is unknown how long this will take. Train traffic between Germany and the Netherlands has also thickened. In the bistro on board the ICE trains, only take-away catering is available. There are still a few Thalys trains running, but only people who have a valid reason can use them. This requires a specially signed French form. More information can be found on the websites of NS and NMBS/SNCB.

Reduced traffic in Sweden

Earlier, Swedish national railway company SJ has suspended the international trains to Norway and Denmark due to the restrictions imposed by these countries. Now, the operator is facing with reducing the domestic traffic. The Swedish government had not implemented the travel ban inside the country but recommended the people to stay home. Therefore, SJ is suspending some of its trains. It is worth to note that the company offers 1,2220 train services.

Special trains from Poland to Ukraine

Poland and Ukraine have adopted the mutual restrictions for cross-border travellings. However, these decisions were a surprise for many people, especially for Ukrainians who visit the neighbouring country in order to work or travel via its airports. That’s why Ukrainian Railway (UZ) will launch four special trains to Poland for catching up the Ukrainian citizens and delivering them home. The special trains will run empty from the Polish city of Przemyśl, which is located close to the Ukrainian border, to Kyiv on Friday, 20 March. Meanwhile, the domestic train traffic in Poland continues to be cut. Many regional operators are reducing the number of train connections.

Read more in the Coronavirus Updates.

Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines and

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