RAIL tracks continue to be busy with "vital" freight traffic, even though the number of passengers using trains has fallen dramatically since the coronavirus outbreak.

Network Rail staff are operating as normal to try to keep services running, as every week thousands of tonnes of vital medical supplies, food, drinks and consumer goods are being transported around the country.

A reduced passenger timetable was introduced last month, so a reliable service would be in operation to get key workers, such as NHS staff, to work while keeping lines open for key freight services to run.

There are currently up to 72 freight trains in and out of Felixstowe and up to 20 freight trains in and out from London Gateway, in Essex, carrying up to 500,000 tonnes of products every week, including food, drinks and vital medical supplies.

Up to 2,000 tonnes of silica sand is also being moved from Middleton Towers quarry near Kings Lynn to numerous industrial plants in the north of England for use in glass and bottle production.

There are also two trains per week supporting the oil and gas industry with moves of gas condensate operating from North Walsham, in Norfolk to Harwich.

A dedicated Tesco train runs daily to Barking and Purfleet bringing supermarket products into the region from the national warehouse at Daventry, which is particularly important for the restocking of Tesco supermarkets with consumer demand being high during the ongoing situation.

Network Rail said it has been possible to meet this demand thanks to dedication of its teams who have continued to work as they are listed as key workers by the Government.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “Our role is critical in keeping Britain running, and even more so in the challenging times we’re experiencing now.

“Our teams are working hard to keep lines open for key workers as well as enabling freight services to run to keep shelves stocked and deliver vital medical supplies and equipment.

“The railway’s ‘key workers’ are the hidden heroes in this national effort to support the country through this challenging time.”

Passengers are advised to visit nationalrail.co.uk to check the revised train times for their essential journeys.