British rail services will be gradually reduced from next week as demand drops away during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said it had agreed with rail operators across the country to scale back timetables from Monday as people change their travel habits to help stop Covid-19 spreading.
Core services will continue to run to help people attend medical appointments and allow emergency services and NHS staff get to work.
The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the public’s travel patterns has seen demand for rail travel decline by up to 69% on some routes, the DfT said.
The joint move from the Government and rail industry will also enable freight services to continue.
It follows speculation in the industry that a number of train operators are on the verge of being brought under Government control due to plummeting passenger numbers.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested to MPs on Tuesday that rail companies, as well as bus firms and airlines, could be temporarily nationalised to help them through the coronavirus outbreak.
Running reduced services will also help protect the welfare of frontline railway staff, the DfT said.
Changes to timetables will be kept under review, with there being a gradual move to widespread service reductions in the longer term.
To minimise disruption, services will be progressively cut back over the coming days, the DfT said.