Together – the railway reflects on a year since lockdown

Together – the railway reflects on a year since lockdown

Published 23 March 2021 | Average read time
7 min read
Stories Industry-leading Life at Network Rail

Today (23 March) the railway has come together to mark a year since the UK entered its first lockdown.

It’s been a year like no other, with unprecedented challenges and change. But what will never change is our commitment to you.

To all our passengers and partners out there; thank you.

Network Rail employees recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours list

Exhibition celebrates railway heroes

Coronavirus information page

Coming together

Our Railway Family has worked hard throughout the pandemic to keep you moving safely on your essential journeys – and to contribute to the huge community response to coronavirus across Britain.

Here’s just some of the ways our people have helped …

Reduced timetable turned around in just one week

Last spring we introduced a a reduced timetable to ensure vital train services for key workers could keep running through a prolonged coronavirus outbreak.

It would usually take about 14 weeks to process a major timetable change such as this. But our Capacity Planning team completed the challenge in just one week.

The team initially held a conference call with all Train Operating Companies (TOCs) to set the scene and talk them through Capacity Planning’s business continuity plan. Calls then took place with TOCs and our routes and regions separately to understand each area’s needs.

A Great Western Railway train calls at a station, dusk

Helping you travel safely

We’ve been doing everything we can so you can travel safely and confidently on the railway.

We know how important it is that you feel safe and supported during your journey with us. That’s why we’re working extra hard to keep you safe from coronavirus when you travel through our stations.

Click here to find out more about how we can help you on your essential journeys

Freight keeps you stocked in essential supplies

Rail freight played a vital role, working together to keep essential supplies moving on busy routes – and supermarkets stocked.

We and freight operating companies responded to rising demand for goods like food, fuel and medicine.

We also worked with suppliers on two new food routes from Valencia and Murcia into London in May. DB Cargo UK and Transfesa Logistics successfully launched an express 72-hour rail service. It would transport essential hygiene, medical and food products from terminals in Valencia and Murcia to London.

A long freight train travels through the countryside with Freightliner logo on side of carriage in the foreground, daytime

Work carries on

Railway workers with heavy equipment work on overhead line equipment, daytime

Our teams all over Britain adjusted to challenges including staff shortages and supply chain disruption to complete crucial maintenance and upgrades to the railway. This would keep you safe and give you a better and more reliable railway post-lockdown.

It’s included our huge and wide-ranging bank holiday weekend improvements, improvements to smaller stations, progress on our biggest and most ambitious projects in the country and emergency landslip repairs.

Catch up with our biggest stories of 2020 in Year on the Network.

Laptops for schools

We launched a scheme to support children learning from home – and reduce waste.

In January, we shared how we’d donated laptops to a school in Manchester. Volunteers at Network Rail designed a scheme to donate old laptops to children across Britain in desperate need of a device to help with their school work.

The project aims to donate more than 8,000 laptops to schools in Britain over the next year.

Nominations for schools from Network Rail employees are processed by a team of volunteers who work with the schools to deliver this initiative. 

School children in a classroom with laptops donated by Network Rail

Volunteers help deliver Nightingale hospital

A Network Rail lorry outside a Nightingale hospital during its set up

Last spring we provided its logistics and project management expertise to help deliver the National Health Service Nightingale Hospital North West in Manchester.

Dozens of volunteers with specialisms in supply chain and logistics worked with the Army Reserve and National Health Service to get the hospital open over the Easter weekend.

The volunteers helped unload, move and build hospital beds, ready for the arrival of the first coronavirus patients on Easter Sunday.

There is Always Hope

The There is Always Hope campaign launched as research showed a huge rise in mental health issues across Britain as a result of the pandemic.

Young people have seen their mental health deteriorate the most since the pandemic began, according to research from Network Rail and national mental health charity Chasing the Stigma.

Almost three quarters of 18-24-year-olds (69%) say covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health compared with 28% of over 65s. Meanwhile, almost half of Brits (48%) agreed their mental health had taken a hit since the pandemic began.

Network Rail workers in North East donate PPE

Volunteers from Network Rail with a nurse practitioner in front of a Network Rail vehicle in a field, daytime
L to R: Craig Jackson (Hexham mobile operations manager); Laura Seaton (nurse practitioner, Hexham General Hospital); Jamie Seaton (signaller and crossing keeper)

Network Rail workers in the North East of England supported the NHS by donating spare personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff at Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland.

Local operations manager Chris Thomas, operations manager Mick Hodgson, mobile operations manager Craig Jackson and signaller Jamie Seaton wanted to help NHS staff in the area. Jamie approached his colleagues as his wife, Laura Seaton, works as a nurse practitioner at Hexham General Hospital.

Food bank collection point created at Manchester Piccadilly station

Manchester Piccadilly station has opened a collection point for food bank donations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The station team had the idea after food from the staff canteen at Network Rail’s nearby Square One offices risked going to waste after the coronavirus lock down came into effect. 

With thousands of Network Rail employees usually based at the site on Travis Street now working from home, it left the well-stocked cafeteria with plenty of food and no mouths to feed. 

Station staff from Manchester Piccadilly with donated food, daytime
Manchester Piccadilly station staff helping people who need food

Station staff swap passengers for patients in covid jab effort

London Euston station staff volunteer to train for the covid vaccination effort
London Euston station customer service assistants Layla Cardoso and Dave Allen in covid vaccination training

Five customer service staff at London Euston station got recruited to give covid-19 jabs in a major push to get people vaccinated across the capital.

The Network Rail staff have received special training so they can be called in to help deliver vaccines at large vaccination hubs soon to open in North London.

Qualified health professions trained the five railway recruits for a day, followed by further e-learning and a final assessment to give them the skills needed to administer the Oxford-Astra Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines.

Two of the customer service staff now ready to respond are Layla Cardoso, and Dave Allen.

Read more: