COVID-19: The effects on GARA

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During the past month, our members have been sending us their thoughts and actions during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Are you still maintaining normal services, or have you introduced revised timetables?
The majority of responses have begun a reduced service by up to three quarters of the usual operations. Those remaining are either currently investigating a reduced service to ensure the safety of passengers and staff, or are under a governement ordered suspension of service.

How are you managing staff patterns and rosters?
All participants have reduced staffing where appropriate, through the furlough of non-essential workers to the relocation of important employees. Those members who have currently suspended services have no staff working aside from duty managers doing daily checks on stations.

What channels are you using to communicate with passengers and what is your current media strategy?
Participants are using all existing forms of online communication including socials, email, website updates and app notifications. Onboard comms have also been updated for the current situation for those passengers still travelling on services. Public awareness materials are being shown at all stations with press releases whenever a government update is issued. A few participants have cancelled paid media for the time being.

If your city is badly affected, are you offering any complimentary travel passes or incentives?
All cities have been affected by the current situation, some more than others. Currently no travel passes or incentives are being offered although are being considered.

How have you revised your vehicle and station cleaning protocols?
All participants have increased cleaning intensity and frequency of customer and staff areas including touchpoints, ticketing machines and the vehicles themselves. Staff have had updated cleaning guidelines to keep on top of this and some have added additional sanitising stations.

Are you experiencing supply chain issues – and do you have a plan?
Fortunately no participant had noticed any supply chain for the usual items issues with the majority are creating detailed plans to prevent any major disruptions. Most have noted an issue with procuring high priority items such as sanitiser and face masks.

What are the main reasons and considerations in deciding to stop services completely?
All participants agree that a serious impact to public health would be a main deciding factor however it is important to keep travel options open to key-workers such as health professionals and shop workers. Those who have suspended services note that by temporarily suspending services now when there is limited demand, they are proactively managing our costs at a time when there is minimal revenue being generated. This is to ensure the future of the company and protecting staff employment for the longterm.

What happens to the staff during this temporary suspension of service?
Staff are kept up to date with current decisions, relocation and furlough options open to those non-essential staff.

What happens to the rolling stock during this period? Opportunity for additional maintenance?
No additional maintenance scheduled for any participants however due to the reduced service some maintenance may be brought forwards during daytime hours.

How long do you estimate it would take to recover to previous levels of ridership?
Unknown. All participant answers range from 6 months – 2+ years. Due to the level of uncertainty regarding individual governments travel restrictions it is impossible to tell when ridership will return to the usual levels. It is safe to assume that even once restrictions are lifted airlines will struggle to rebound due to public awareness of the sanitary risks associated with air travel.

We are continually monitoring the world wide situation with regards to our future events and their format. We are proposing to hold some live webinars a the beginning of June and look forward to supporting each other.