Rail services grind to a halt amid staffing crisis

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Christmas train travel is already being badly disrupted by Omicron – and is only going to get worse – with almost one in ten staff now off sick or isolating and Britons now being urged to travel as soon as possible over the festive period because of cancellations, it was revealed today.

Britain’s Rail Delivery Group has said that around one in 20 services were cancelled in the past week – up from an average of one in 40 – with passengers urged to check their train is running before they travel.

Passengers face being crammed into carriages in the coming days because of reduced timetables caused by staff shortages, raising concerns of an increase in transmission of the virus.

Almost ten per cent of railway staff are off sick or isolation, up one per cent in a month, while Transport for London says around 500 of its frontline staff are currently off work due to ‘Covid-related illness’.

Passengers face being crammed into carriages in the coming days because of reduced timetables caused by staff shortages, raising concerns of an increase in transmission of the virus.

Train companies have blamed the wave of cancellations on staff sickness and isolation requirements, with almost 9 per cent of staff absent over the last week.  On Monday, 13 per cent of UK trains were either cancelled or delayed. More than one in 20 trains were cancelled in the seven days before Monday, up from the annual average of 2.9 per cent.

Operators yesterday pleaded with travellers to book on to earlier services, while warning of last-minute cancellations in the days ahead.

Omicron is causing staff shortages in all areas of the UK, with hospitals in parts of England with the highest infection rates predicting that one-third of NHS staff could be off sick by January.

Bin collections have been disrupted while at Heathrow staffing shortages caused pre-Christmas travel ‘chaos’ with delays at check-in, passport control and baggage reclaim.

Royal Mail chiefs are warning of potential delays to postal services this Christmas.

Last night the self-isolation period was cut to seven days from ten days, meaning hundreds of thousands of people currently stuck at home will now be able to see family by Christmas Day. Officials cut the quarantine time for confirmed virus cases as long as they test negative with a lateral flow two days in a row.

The decision is also an attempt to stave off the staffing crisis being caused by Omicron, with the public sector, businesses and the NHS being hit by huge levels of absence.

As millions of Britons prepare to travel to their families for the winter holidays, rail firms have announced a raft of cancellations and delays between now and Christmas Day.

Long distance rail services are among those most impacted, while Transport for London (TfL) bosses say around 500 frontline staff across buses and London Underground services are currently off work due to a Covid-related illness.

Meanwhile, local government chiefs have sounded the alarm over staff shortages in areas such as waste collection, social care and child services.

Doctors have also warned of staffing issues in hospitals due to a huge uptick in Covid cases across the UK, particularly in London. Intensive care consultant Professor Rupert Pears, from the Intensive Care Society, warned hospitals faced a ‘very severe’ staff shortage over Christmas.

Source: The Dailymail

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