Transport for the North, rail operating companies, Network Rail and the British Transport Police have joined forces to call on rail users in the north of England to keep the region’s railways free for essential travel only.

Following reports of public disregard for government social distancing rules in Cumbria, the region’s transport body and rail industry responded on Friday by urging restraint. The statement came as the first week of national lockdown came to an end, ahead of brighter weather forecasts and longer daylight hours. Rail bodies in the north of England, however, maintained that social distancing was a ‘vital weapon’ in combatting the spread of COVID-19.

David Hoggarth, strategic rail director for transport for the North, said: “Rail operators themselves are having to cope with high absence levels and have trimmed back services as they begin to introduce ‘key worker’ emergency timetables. Together they want to ensure the rail services that do operate are kept free for those who really need them.”