CER highlights rail industry’s efforts in keeping services running amidst COVID-19
Despite the impact COVID-19 is having on the European rail sector, CER has highlighted how the industry is doing its upmost to ensure continued operation.
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to drastically impact all industries across the globe, but is now focussed heavily on Europe, keeping European mobility operational during the crisis remains key. The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) has highlighted that railways are currently working as hard as possible and doing their utmost to keep essential freight and passenger services running, whilst protecting their staff and their passengers.
Railway companies across Europe are currently working in close collaboration with public authorities at European, national and regional levels in order to ensure that the critical mobility needs of health authorities, citizens and businesses continue to be met in this time of unprecedented crisis. These exchanges need to continue in line with the call by European Transport Ministers on 18 March 2020 for the smooth flow of essential goods, as well as key workers across the European Union.
For all services, specific protocols have been implemented for the sanitisation of facilities, workplaces and spaces dedicated to customer service, ensuring compliance with the indications of the competent authorities.
As with many companies in other industrial sectors, CER members are suffering significantly as a result of the consequences of the pandemic. Amid plunging sales, international passenger traffic has declined severely due to the closure of intra-EU borders. At a national level, passenger traffic is significantly reduced due to the national containment measures taken by Member State authorities and official advice to keep travel by public transport to a minimum. Whilst many public service operators (PSO) are already working with relevant competent authorities, ensuring liquidity for open-access services during this COVID-19 outbreak is crucial.
Whilst being faced with a rapidly changing situation, rail operators are working to continuously inform customers extensively about any changes in schedule and cancelled services. Additionally, European railway undertakings are upholding special goodwill arrangements with effected passengers through the reimbursement or exchange of tickets, with longer validity periods than are usually in place. The protection of rail passengers remains an unquestionable priority under these exceptional circumstances.
While rail traffic from sea ports has (and continues to) experienced a dramatic drop due to decreasing intercontinental exchanges, freight operators have been able to free extra capacity and ensure intra-continental connections. As a result, they are able to offer safe cross-border cargo connections for large volumes of goods using minimal human resources. However, to be able to fulfil this vital function, it is essential that train drivers are regarded as a “strategic workforce” who are allowed to cross borders without unnecessary restrictions in order to pick up and deliver freight trains smoothly.
Libor Lochman, CER‘s Executive Director, said: “We are thankful to all rail transport workers for keeping the essential services running. The COVID-19 pandemic is a stress test for the whole European Union: for its institutions, for its economy, for its citizens. Railways are as much impacted by the consequences of the pandemic as by the consequences of the public measures taken to fight it, but are working hard to ensure freight and passenger rail transport continues.”
In order to enable all authorities to design upcoming emergency measures to curb the pandemic and support the sector, CER is collecting data on the above-mentioned aspects, as well as the economic impact of COVID-19, the effects of which will require considerable EU-level as well as national support for transport.