Published: 08:36, 23 March 2020
| Updated: 10:40, 23 March 2020
Train services across Kent will operate on a reduced timetable from today as the government announces some fare refunds for passengers.
Southeastern has seen a dramatic fall in passenger numbers since the coronavirus pandemic.
Demand for rail travel has dropped by up to 69% on some routes since the government issued advice to stop all non-essential journeys.
Key services will still be running to make sure people can get to work, travel to medical appointments and goods will be transported.
But today will see fewer trains running across the network and arrangements put in place to allow some ticket holders to get refunds.
The Department for Transport says the steps will help those who have now cancelled non-essential journeys not be out of pocket. There will also be some refunds for season ticket holders who are not using the services because of the crisis.
The Department for Transport said it was to temporarily suspend normal franchise agreements and transfer all revenue and cost risk to the government for a limited period, initially six months.
In a statement outlining the measures, the DFT said:“This will allow us to ensure that trains necessary for key workers and essential travel continue to operate. No other passengers should travel. “Anyone holding an Advance ticket will be able to refund it free of charge. All season ticket holders can claim a refund for time unused on their tickets free of administrative charges. Ticket holders should contact their operator for details.”
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said:“We are taking this action to protect the key workers who depend on our railways to carry on their vital roles, the hardworking commuters who have radically altered their lives to combat the spread of coronavirus, and the frontline rail staff who are keeping the country moving.
“People deserve certainty that the services they need will run or that their job is not at risk in these unprecedented times.”
Southeastern will continue to run early morning and late evening services to help people attend medical appointments and allow emergency services and NHS staff get to work.
David Statham, managing director at Southeastern, said:“Like many of us, Southeastern train crew and station teams can’t work from home, and some of them are also dealing with personal or family issues related to coronavirus.
"We’re grateful to our passengers for their understanding as we take steps to ensure that vital train services for key workers can keep running. Please follow the official advice and only travel if your journey is absolutely essential.”