Good morning, Mr Speaker. We have worked closely with the rail industry throughout the pandemic to mitigate covid-19 risks to workers. Since the covid outbreak, operators have been cleaning trains in line with existing guidance, increasing cleaning regimes and concentrating on high-touch areas that present a higher risk of contamination.
The Minister will be aware that the rail industry coronavirus forum’s figures show that total covid deaths among rail workers have tragically more than doubled since November, from 12 to 26, and that absences have also doubled. The figures could be even higher when subcontractors are included. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers is concerned that, despite the new variant, some rail companies are acting like it is business as usual. Can the Minister tell the rail companies to do more to protect our rail workers who are so bravely keeping our country moving?
I thank the hon. Lady for her excellent question. I have been talking to the rail companies and, indeed, the general secretaries of the unions throughout this crisis and we have issued comprehensive guidance to public transport operators, including rail operators. This has been reinforced by officials throughout the pandemic on how to keep staff safe and trains clean, so that passengers and staff are able to maintain good hygiene.