Thousands more train services will be restored to the UK rail schedules this weekend with more passengers expected to travel as coronavirus restrictions ease on Monday.
The addition of 2,500 extra services daily means that about 85% of the rail network will be running again, back to levels before the start of the last lockdown in December.
Campaigners have urged ministers to do more to underline the safety of public transport, with social distancing likely to be impossible on many trains despite the additional capacity.
(March 8, 2021) Step 1, part 1
In effect from 8 March, all pupils and college students returned fully. Care home residents could receive one regular, named visitor.
(March 29, 2021) Step 1, part 2
In effect from 29 March, outdoor gatherings allowed of up to six people, or two households if this is larger, not just in parks but also gardens. Outdoor sport for children and adults allowed. The official stay at home order ended, but people encouraged to stay local. People still asked to work from home where possible, with no overseas travel allowed beyond the current small number of exceptions.
(April 12, 2021) Step 2
In effect from 12 April, non-essential retail, hair and nail salons, and some public buildings such as libraries and commercial art galleries reopened. Most outdoor venues can reopen, including pubs and restaurants, but only for outdoor tables and beer gardens. Customers will have to be seated but there will be no need to have a meal with alcohol.
Also reopen are settings such as zoos and theme parks. However, social contact rules still apply here, so no indoor mixing between households and limits on outdoor mixing. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools can also open, but again people can only go alone or with their own household. Reopening of holiday lets with no shared facilities is also allowed, but only for one household. Funerals can have up to 30 attendees, while weddings, receptions and wakes can have 15.
(May 17, 2021) Step 3
From 17 May people will be able to meet indoors in groups of up to six or as two households, or outdoors in groups of up to 30 people. People can also choose whether to socially distance with close family and friends, meaning that they can sit close together and hug. In care homes, residents will be able to have up to five named visitors and be entitled to make low risk visits out of the home.
People can meet in private homes, or in pubs, bars and restaurants, which will all be able to reopen indoors. Weddings, receptions and other life events can take place with up to 30 people. The cap on numbers attending funerals will depend on the size of the venue.
Most forms of indoor entertainment where social distancing is possible will also be able to resume, including cinemas, museums and children’s play areas. Theatres, concert halls, conference centres and sports stadia will have capacity limits in place.
Organised adult sport and exercise classes can resume indoors and saunas and steam rooms will reopen.
Hotels, hostels and B&Bs in the UK will allow overnight stays in groups of up to six people or two households.
People will also be able to travel to a small number of countries on the green list and will not have to quarantine on return.
Pupils will no longer be expected to wear face coverings in classrooms or in communal areas in secondary schools and colleges as a result of decreasing infection rates. Twice weekly home testing will remain in place. School trips with overnight stays will also now be possible.
(June 21, 2021) Step 4
No earlier than 21 June, all legal limits will be removed on mixing, and the last sectors to remain closed, such as nightclubs, will reopen. Large events can take place.
Peter Walker Political correspondent and Rachel Hall
Rail companies are asking passengers to travel at quieter times and will be providing information about busy services through personalised alerts to phones.
Passengers on GWR and LNER intercity routes will be asked to check before they travel with some services still out of action due to the cracks found on Hitachi Class 800 trains, although a safety and repair plan drawn up on Thursday has allowed more to run.
Robert Nisbet, a director at the Rail Delivery Group, an industry body, said: “As many people prepare to make their first journey since the pandemic began, we’re ensuring that they can travel with confidence by increasing space and maintaining enhanced cleaning.
“As part of our safer travel pledge, we’ve made journeys more comfortable and reliable for people when they return and while we are adding thousands more daily services to increase space, social distancing may not always be possible.”
Research by the passenger watchdog Transport Focus found 90% of passengers felt safe making train journeys in the past week.
Train passengers numbers are at just under 40% of pre-Covid levels, while bus usage is at about 60%.
Capacity on buses nationwide will be almost doubled from Monday with social distancing no longer required and adjacent forward-facing seats again usable. The bus industry group the Confederation of Passenger Transport said that on busy routes passengers may now need to sit next to each other.
Transport for London, which is running a full network of about 8,000 buses every day, said most seats could be used from Monday, increasing the capacity of double-deckers to about 60.
Anthony Smith, the chief executive of Transport Focus, said the government needed “to be straight with passengers” that social distancing might not be possible. “The next few weeks will be crucial in helping to rebuild passenger confidence step by step.”
Paul Tuohy, the chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, warned that without more help public transport could struggle and congestion increase, adding: “We hope the government continues to send a clear message that travelling by public transport is both safe and desirable.”