UK Rail Services Face ‘Widespread Disruption’ as COVID-19 Causes Staff Shortages

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
December 21, 2021 Updated: December 21, 2021

British rail services are suffering from “widespread disruption” in the run-up to Christmas, as firms are having to run reduced timetables due to workers being off sick or self-isolating.

The CrossCountry train company is cancelling dozens of trains each day, and has reduced the number of carriages of many trains that are still operating.

The firm said it is “expecting widespread disruption” to its services this week. It advised passengers to “pull your journey forward to sooner rather than later to get to your end destination as early as possible.”

The Avanti West Coast company also said: “The pandemic is unfortunately resulting in some staff shortages. We’re doing everything we can to run our full timetable but there may be some short-notice cancellations.”

Greater Anglia said it has to “plan for our staff being affected” by the Omicron CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus variant, adding that it is “already starting to see the early signs of its impact.”

A spokeswoman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said: “Like everyone else, our staff are susceptible to the virus but as we showed last year during the pandemic, we will ensure that key workers can get to where they need to be.

“We aren’t able to run every train as planned at the moment but we know people want confidence that their train is going to turn up so we will be working hard to give clear, accurate and timely information and people should check before they travel.”

Under the UK government’s latest COVID-19 regulations, people must “self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test” if they develop COVID-19 symptoms even if the symptoms are mild.

The official guidance says: “You should self-isolate at home while you book the test and wait for the results. You must self-isolate if you test positive.”

Under the government’s “Plan B” measures introduced to slow the spread of Omicron, people have been asked to work from home if they can, vaccine passports have been introduced for large-scale events and nightclubs, and a mask mandate has been enforced in most indoor settings including cinemas and theatres.

The education sector has also been hit hard by staff shortages caused by the pandemic.

On Sunday, UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi called on former teachers to sign up to help with COVID-19-related staff shortages in the New Year.

The plea comes amid reports that some schools were experiencing very low attendance among teachers and pupils ahead of the Christmas break.

PA contributed to this report.