The Normalisation of Rail Passenger Services

About the Challenge

Analyse the positive contribution that the normalisation of rail passenger services and resumption of use will make to reactivating UK economic activity and compare the benefits from the resumption in domestic growth with any incremental risk from rail causing an acceleration in Coronavirus infection rates, should current risk mitigations prove ineffective. Contribute to building the case for when ‘it’s safe to travel by rail’.

A worst-case risk for analysing and monitoring should be a reversal from the current Government Coronavirus alert-level four (“a high or rising level of transmission – enforced social distancing”) to level five (“a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed – extremely strict social distancing”).

Challenge Host



Relevant Sectors

Government (GB national and regional) including the Department for Transport (DfT), the Treasury and the Office of Rail and Road; rail transportation and public transportation providers including operators and infrastructure managers; the healthcare sector, including the NHS as well as the health and mental care sectors; law enforcement and the British Transport Police; passengers and passenger focus groups; Trades Unions and the Trades Union Congress (TUC); The Confederation of British Industry (CBI); Universities involved in the epidemiological modelling of Coronavirus disease; the primary, secondary and tertiary education sectors.

What are you looking to achieve?

Desired insight 1: enhanced data, intelligence and knowledge on the role that passenger rail transport will play as an enabler to kickstart economic growth – identifying areas of data paucity to improve.

  • Desired insight 2: better-informed communication messages (local and national) on the benefits versus the risks from a return to normal rail services for rail passengers and staff – providing assurance and allaying concerns where possible.
  • Desired insight 3: assess the effectiveness of the measures described in the Government guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19): Safer working principles and risk assessment for transport operators and organisations ( and recommend what areas to improve, such as a reduction in the 2m social distancing guidance as a key enabler to allow financially viable train operations.
  • Desired insight 4: develop medium to longer-term scenarios for a “more sustainable and desirable vision of passenger rail travel” as part of a “new, post CV pandemic, normal.”

What will be the Value and Impact?

  • As described in Section 3, above.
  • Help policy makers and co-citizens make informed choices about the risks and benefits of a return to normal train timetables and increased patronage during the Coronavirus crisis.
  • Use available data and previously untapped insights to better understand the fundamental determinants that influence rail passengers’ perceptions of risk during the various stages of alert levels five to one.

Our Open Data Catalogue


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