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Long-distance train and bus services could be halted to curb the spread of the coronavirus if the government follows the advice of the nation’s top health officials.
However, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – an emergency group made up of the states' chief health officers and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy – also advised the nation's new coronavirus cabinet that the overall number of trains, trams and bus services may need to go up to thin out commuter crowds.
Commuter numbers are thinning out on suburban services.CREDIT:AAP
Public transport is considered an "essential service" and is exempt from the rules that ban indoor gatherings of more than 100 people across the country.
The Victorian government has continued running the state's public transport network as normal, with school students, workers and other commuters relying on it to get around.
Metro, V/Line and Yarra Trams have ramped up their cleaning regimes to limit the spread of the virus – a move Premier Daniel Andrews said would come at a "very considerable cost".
But Victoria’s trains, trams and buses have become increasingly empty over the past fortnight and city train stations that usually brim with commuters at peak hour are now chillingly vacant with many people following the official advice to stay home if they can.
The network could soon become even more deserted after the national health committee called for a rethink on longer public transport journeys.
"Long-distance bus or train services pose a higher risk and should be reconsidered if not essential," the committee's advice stated.
The committee also advised “increasing the frequency of transport options to reduce passenger density”.
Victoria’s Transport Department is working with the transport operators to review these measures but increasing services on the network is unlikely in the wake of a dramatic drop in patronage.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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