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Key improvements to London City Airport’s airfield infrastructure has been completed. The scheme behind the work is the City Airport Development Programme and includes a new parallel taxiway and new stands capable of handling larger aircraft.

The scheme has also provided a new digital air traffic control tower, a world first for an airport this size, and improved passenger experience with new e-gates and outbound baggage facility.

Robert Sinclair, Chief Executive said “The completion of this vital new airfield infrastructure is a major milestone for the airport and will help us to return to growth, welcome new airlines and aircraft and once again connect London to the rest of the UK and to the world”.

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In 2018 a proposal was submitted to modernise and expand Gatwick Airport Station by widening the concourse and improving connections to the airport terminal. This work began in November 2020 as part of a 5 year £1.1b scheme to improve all of Gatwick Airport and is expected to be complete in 2023. This redevelopment is aiming to improve passenger experience across the board when it comes to travel via Gatwick.

RTM’s Editorial Lead Ailsa Cowen spoke to Stephen MacCallaugh, Gatwick Express General Manager, and Catriona Taylor, Scheme Project Manager, to find out where the project is up to and how the future is looking. You can read the full interview here.

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The 9km phase-1 extension line from Washermenpet to Wimco Nagar is likely to open for commercial operations in the first half of February after a month long trial run. Commuters will be able to travel from Wimco Nagar to the Airport in a single 60 minute train ride.

Last week an official from Chennai Metro Rail Ltd said “We had been testing since December and the final test was done on January 18 and 19. A report has been sent to the Germany-based company which developed the signal software and which will certify that the signalling is ready for operations based on the report,”.

Before the line is ready for opening before the middle of February, an inspection by the commissioner of railway safety may take place.

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Last year our members started sending us their thoughts and actions during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This exercise proved insightful into how the industry was coping with issues caused by lockdowns & quarantines. Over the last few weeks, we ran another questionnaire to find out how things have changed in the last 6 months. Below are the results.

Have normal services resumed or are revised timetables still in place? How are you managing staff patterns and rosters to fit this?

All but one response claimed to be operating on a revised and reduced schedule which is allowing the ability to have staff working fewer shifts while providing the same standard which passengers come to expect. The one response that has resumed a standard timetable is doing so via a skeleton crew to reduce unnecessary contact and mitigate risks.

What channels are you using to communicate with passengers and what is your current media strategy?

All respondents are using a combination of online and offline methods of communication and marketing. Be that social media or more tradition forms of media with a goal of boosting brand awareness and staying in the minds of potential customers for when regular service restarts.

What new technology is in place to assist customers in their travel avoiding touch points at stations or on trains etc?

The use of automated ticket machines is on the rise due to COVID-19 along with pushing for cashless sales via cards and Apple/Google Pay. Replacing many button activated doors with automatic ones and increasing cleaning intervals of remaining inevitable touch points.

Are you actively running COVID-19 testing schemes to allow passengers to travel?

The majority are not running tests.

What are the plans for the future to avoid crowded trains and stations going forward?

All responses to this question essentially fall into two categories, reducing passenger numbers or increasing service capacity. The first group will achieve this by holding a percentage of tickets back as a buffer and blocking off seats to provide adequate distancing between passengers. Whilst others will combat overcrowding by resorting back to a normal schedule and increasing frequency when necessary.

How are the revised cleaning protocols working, is this giving customers more confidence in travelling?

Whilst all cleaning protocols are working well and used in conjunction with frequent announcements about cleanliness are driving customer confidence up, many feel that the government calls against public travel are counteracting this confidence.

Do you still have supply chain issues and what is the plan to overcome these?

The majority are not having supply chain issues, those that are have no plans to overcome.

What are the main reasons and considerations in deciding to stop services completely?

N/A to any recipients.

What happens to the staff during this temporary suspension of service?

N/A for the majority. A combination of furlough and compulsory salary reductions for higher earners.

How long do you estimate it will take to recover to previous levels of ridership? What happens to the rolling stock during this period?

This is possibly the most diverse set of answers we have ever had signalling how difficult and unpredictable to current situation is. With estimates ranging from 1 month to 3+ years to return to 2019 levels of ridership it is safe to say that even with vaccines rolling out around the world; we are in this for the long haul.

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Etihad Airways have expanded its partnership with AccessRail allowing Etihad customers to book rail tickets with their air fare.

Customers will be able to use rail routes operated by many major European operators including Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, Great Western Railway from London Heathrow and SNCF from their Paris terminals.

This partnership aims to provide a convenient way for anyone in these countries serviced to have access to easy travel by combining all modes of transport into a single ticket and itinerary.