While official advice in Australia and New Zealand is to now limit all non-essential travel, authorities across both countries have prioritised keeping passenger rail services running to ensure that front-line health workers and other critical staff can get to work.
Queensland has now limited long-haul train services, however the state will maintain capacity on some routes, said Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey.
“People will still have access to long distance passenger services for essential reasons on all key corridors, but the frequency of those services will be reduced, and we’ll manage passenger numbers on board to separate passengers from each other.”
Services which largely cater to tourists have been cancelled, including the Spirit of the Outback (Brisbane to Longreach), Westlander (Brisbane to Charleville), and Inlander (Townsville to Mount Isa). Additionally, The Savannahlander, Gulflander, and Kuranda Scenic Railway have also been suspended.
There will be no impact on freight services that use these lines.
Passenger services along Queensland’s east coast from Brisbane to Cairns will be reduced by 50 per cent.
Bailey noted that these measures will be temporary.
“These are temporary measures, but they are critical to curbing the spread of COVID-19 into our rural and regional communities.”
In South East Queensland, passenger services are continuing, however Queensland Rail is going cashless. EFTPOS transactions, online top ups or pre-purchased paper tickets are encouraged.
These measures have followed a fall in patronage of up to 60 per cent in Queensland.
Other jurisdictions have also seen large falls in passenger numbers, with a 40-45 per cent decline in NSW in the past two weeks. This drop has in some ways allowed for services to continue, as social distancing can be practiced.
“It is no surprise to anyone that customer numbers are down across our trains, buses, ferries and light rail due to the Coronavirus outbreak, however importantly this has created sufficient space on all modes to allow our customers to socially distance themselves in the majority of cases,” said Transport for NSW secretary, Rodd Staples.
Regional rail services in NSW remain running with booking measures in place to allow for social distancing.