European railways return to normal operations after lockdown

After almost two months in lockdown, European railway operators are gradually coming back to their normal activities. Some companies have already restored their complete schedule, others have done this only partially. However, all of them adhere to safety guidelines.

Last week, train traffic was almost fully relaunched in Belgium. “Since May 4, the train service has been almost fully resumed to meet the transport needs of the passengers concerned,” the Belgian national railway operator NMBS/SNCB reported. On the same day, Serbian company Srbija Voz started to restore the domestic trains. A few days later, it entirely relaunched all the BG Voz services, the S-Bahn-like railway network in Belgrade and its surroundings.

Meanwhile, the same trend also took place in Poland. PKP Intercity and several regional operators resumed dozens of train services that had run before the coronavirus restrictions. “In recent days, we have seen a growing interest in our connections, which converts into a gradually increasing number of passengers. We react flexibly, analysing each connection individually. Thanks to this, we can ensure the number of trains adequate to passenger expectations and take the next step to restore full timetable,” said Bartłomiej Rodak, a spokesman at Koleje Dolnośląskie.

The COVID-19 poster of Slovenske železnice, source: Slovenske železnice

Austria & Slovenia

The current week started with more resumptions on the European railway network. On 11 May, two countries, Austria and Slovenia, relaunched domestic passenger trains. “This means that the new schedule will be almost identical to the old timetable prior to the start of the corona pandemic,” the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) stated.

Slovenske železnice (SŽ) has resumed domestic trains across Slovenia after almost two months of suspension (since 16 March). “As an incumbent carrier, we have adapted all the prescribed requirements so that we can ensure safe train journeys, taking into account additional measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” the Slovenian operator noted in an official release. At the same time, the future of international trains is still unclear for both ÖBB and SŽ.

Safety first

In order to provide their train connections, all the railway operators follow safety guidelines. “What has changed is the mandatory wearing of mouth and nose protection. Passengers must have put this on as soon as they enter the train station or bus stop and must wear it throughout the journey,” ÖBB announced. The rule to wear masks has already become when travelling by train. Belgian operator NMBS/SNCB require from the customers starting from the age of 12 years old to wear a mask at the stations and in the trains. The company even began to sell masks at 80 train stations across Belgium.

A special poster at Rotterdam Centraal station, source: Nederlandse Spoorwegen

Besides wearing masks, the operators ask passengers to keep social distancing at the stations and in the trains, purchase tickets via mobile applications or dedicated websites. In addition, the railway undertakings, in their turn, continue to disinfect carriages by using various solutions. For instance, Dutch national operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) together with the local infrastructure manager ProRail are placing special signs and pictograms at the train stations to remind passengers about the safety rules such as ‘keep 1.5 metres away’, ‘touch as little as possible, ‘use the lift only with a maximum of 2 people’ and others.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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