Transport Secretary says he wants to avoid ‘ghost trains’

PUBLISHED: 18:00 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 21:09 16 March 2020

Welwyn Garden City train station. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

Welwyn Garden City train station. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin.

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The Transport Secretary has said he wants to avoid “ghost trains” as fewer and fewer people use services like Govia-operated Great Northern and Thameslink.

Grant Shapps, who is also the MP for Welwyn Hatfield, made the comments on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme where he also claimed there had been “a drop-off” in commuters using trains by between 18 and 20 per cent.

Mr Shapps was speaking before the Government advised at 5pm today for people to work from home where they can and avoid gatherings.

Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) operate as a service, so they bill the government and doe not collect ticket fares.

This means that Govia has to offer a certain service or it can be fined, as it has been previously, for not meeting its contract, but will not be affected by reduced demand.

Grant Shapps, the MP for Welwyn Hatfield. Picture: Richard Townshend.Grant Shapps, the MP for Welwyn Hatfield. Picture: Richard Townshend.

Mr Shapps did not commit to relaxing the contract when asked on BBC Radio 4 but said he was meeting with rail bosses this week.

He said: “We’re working with them all to see what it is we’d need to do to sustain them.

“People still need to be able to travel to an extent, and some of that is actually about how many trains are put on a line at any one time and the rest of it.”

He also said on twitter that he has prevented the flying of some “ghost planes” as global travel slows down.

“There’s no point running ghost trains any more than in running ghost planes, but those are conversations which are ongoing,” the Conservative MP said on the show.

Mr Shapps said under the action plan they are looking at isolating the elderly.

He said: “As I told my mum you can go and walk your dog and she pointed out she actually doesn’t have one.”

However he said there is little point in banning international travel as “effectively the whole world” has been exposed to coronavirus, but pointed out mass gatherings could be cancelled soon.

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