Keeping trains running for key workers

Company news

Southern staff clapping for carers at Balham station

The spring of 2020 turned out to be a time like no other. The coronavirus pandemic led to a lockdown in the UK to prevent the virus from spreading, and to major changes to all of our lives. We were proud to keep our trains running for NHS staff and key workers, and to keep the country moving forward despite the difficult circumstances.

In addition to changing our timetables across our network to accommodate key workers, our people showed great creativity and determination in helping out wherever possible. Here are some examples of how we all came together in challenging times.

Converting a maintenance depot into a bottling plant

Our maintenance depot in Horsham was turned into a bottling plant for hand sanitiser in the beginning of the pandemic. Set up in response to the pandemic in a matter of hours when normal suppliers started struggling to deliver, bulk deliveries of hand sanitiser were decanted and packed into 1,000 bottles by the Horsham Maintenance Depot and sent on to hubs around the network, across Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern.

Horsham maintenance depot has beenturned into a bottling plant for hand sanitiser
Our Horsham maintenance depot was turned into a bottling plant for hand sanitiser in April 2020

Specially rebranded trains

In order to show our support for all key workers, we rolled out three re-branded trains in April paying homage to NHS staff across the UK fighting Coronavirus – one each for Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern. The re-branded NHS and Key Worker trains featured GTR’s ‘We’re with You’ promise and illustrated our heartfelt support and gratitude to NHS staff and the 200,000 key workers who rely on GTR’s rail routes each week.

Specially key worker branded Thameslink train
Specially key worker branded Southern train
Specially key worker branded Great Northern train
Our specially rebranded trains to thank the NHS and key workers

The Thameslink Class 700 train had unit number 700111 – selected to show thanks for the tireless efforts of the NHS’s 111 advice line, with the Southern unit number 377111 also celebrating the NHS service. The Great Northern train had unit number 717011 (as there are only 25 in the fleet!).

We also ran a marketing campaign thanking all key workers, and our staff showed their support to the NHS and all carers, during the weekly claps for carers.

Bicycles for NHS workers

Thanks to collaborations with local councils, charities and bike repair shops, we donated bicycles to NHS staff across our network on Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern, in locations like Horsham, Sussex, Luton, Biggleswade and Bedfordshire.

Biggleswade NHS key workers and their renovated bikes
NHS key workers Claire Tabb, Tracy Brewer-Reeves and Ria Cameron were presented with restored bikes previously abandoned and unclaimed at Thameslink stations

Volunteering and raising money for charities

Some of our people volunteered for emergency services, while others raised funds for charities and other organisations during the pandemic. A memorable one was the Southern team in Eastbourne, that raised more than £1,000 for NHS workers with a song they recorded at work during lockdown.

Enhanced cleaning regime and promoting safe travelling

We introduced a powerful new product which sticks to surfaces, killing viruses for up to 30 days. The product further improves our already-enhanced cleaning regime, in which stations and staff areas are treated with more short-term viruscides, and all 2,700 of our train carriages are sanitised every night.

Electrostatic spray guns at Blackfriars
Cleaning with our powerful viruscide at Blackfriars station

As people across the country began to see the gradual ease to lockdown in the summer of 2020, the prospect of taking on the ‘new world commute’ for those who must travel by train, seemed a little daunting.

While the advice is clear that people should still consider whether their journey is necessary and wear a face covering if travelling, inevitably many were nervous about the prospect of heading onto public transport in the future.

We made sure to communicate all the necessary travel guidance on our websites, social media, on stations and on trains. To help ease customer concerns, we shared behind the scenes videos and staff stories of the work being done, and to demonstrate the small things we can all do to stay safe.

Our people across the GTR network can be proud of how we came together in challenging times, and we will continue making sure that everyone who needs to travel can feel safe in doing so.