Guidance for community rail partnerships and station friends on the Coronavirus

Guidance for community rail partnerships and station friends on the Coronavirus

1 Apr, 2020

Updated 2 June 2020

We urge all our members in community rail to keep up-to-date with the latest government requirements and advice relevant to whether you’re in England, Scotland or Wales, and promote it to others – we all need to do as much as we can to help contain Coronavirus.

That includes continuing to suspend all activities that involve face-to-face contact, and not doing anything that encourages non-essential travel or otherwise breaches government advice. However, we encourage community rail partnerships and groups to stay productive, adapt to the situation, plan ahead, and keep communicating and engaging your communities online and by phone.

It’s also especially important to be considerate and caring, by checking in by phone with volunteers and contacts who may be feeling isolated, and supporting local volunteering efforts if possible (see below).


Meetings and events

Face-to-face meetings and events need to be switched to conference or video call whenever possible, or postponed or cancelled. We suggest doing this at least until mid-July, to give plenty of notice. Our team is switching all its meetings to phone/online, including planning and accreditation meetings with community rail partnerships.

Easy-to-use, free conference and video call services include: 

Free conference call for large group conference calls, or video calls for up to five (no download);

Zoom for video calls free up to 40 minutes (requires downloading);

Skype for video calls free for an unlimited time (no download, but an app is also available);

or Teams if you use Microsoft Office365.

All offer calls by voice or video and allow you to present slides and share documents. Members can access our advice on making use of these services. Once you’re using a service, please share your experience with us, fellow community rail people, and your local partners.

We are also rescheduling our own events or moving them online. Have a look at our Events Diary for our upcoming webinars.


Avoiding travel and supporting working from home

The advice remains that everyone should be avoiding public transport and continue to work from home. Those who have to travel to work should follow official guidance to ensure everyone stays safe. You should keep promoting this message and display it on your own website such as the one on Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership’s website. Also see your local train operators’ advice.

For community rail partnerships with staff, our advice remains that community rail officers and other staff should continue working from home. If your office is completely closed, change your answerphone message and put a note on your website/social media on how people can get in touch. Share guidance with your staff on wellbeing while working from home and maintain regular contact.


Volunteering and station adopters

All station friends/adoption activities are on hold, unless you have been given express permission from your train operator that small numbers of volunteers may visit certain stations at certain times, while maintaining social distancing rules. In these cases, it’s crucial to follow instructions given by your train operator as well as government rules (as they apply in your area/country). However, given the social distancing challenges being faced on our rail network, it is likely that most usual station adoption activities will need to continue to be paused for the time being. All other community rail volunteering, events and days must be cancelled or paused, bearing in mind that this may need to continue for some months.

However, do keep up contact with all your volunteers by phone and email/online. Consider if any volunteers may be feeling isolated or vulnerable, and speak to them by phone if you can, and offer help if they need it (while keeping safe and sticking to government advice). Some groups might consider a contact tree or chain, where someone has responsibility for regularly checking in on a few others, or one person calls another, and they then call someone else. You could alternatively try one of the video call services above. You can also see this list of ideas from one station adopter.



Keep communicating with staff, volunteers, communities and partners, using phone, email, social media and online. Reinforce the sense of community and collaboration, and use the chance to think and plan ahead to positive work you’ll do together in the future. This might be a good time too to review and improve communication channels, such as your website and social media use. For general advice on communications, including brushing up on social media, see our resources.

However, take care with communications that you aren’t encouraging people to travel now or otherwise breach government advice. If you’re referring to your ‘usual’ activities, or sharing positive images or messages about your line/station, be clear that you’re looking back or looking forward.


Supporting your community

Communities around Britain are finding ways to cope and build resilience, especially by mobilising volunteer support to assist the most vulnerable. Many local authorities are coordinating volunteering in their area, plus there is national coordination by British Red Cross and NHS Volunteer Responders. You may also have local community organisations and voluntary groups who are currently looking for extra volunteer support. This is a good time to be building stronger links with other local groups and providing mutual support especially as we start to look to the future.

Consider if there are ways you can help, through a well-organised scheme, while keeping safe and following government advice. We need to play whatever part we can in helping our localities get through this, and supporting people and local partners can strengthen community rail’s role in the long-run. Let us know how you’re helping.


Promoting home schooling and activities

A big part of community rail is engaging children, young people and other groups, to build positivity, awareness and confidence about rail and your local area. While we can’t run workshops, talks or try the train trips at the moment, there’s a lot community rail can do to support home schooling and help people to keep active and positive while staying at home.

For example, you could promote rail-related information and resources on your website, or social media, or promote a call out for people in your area to submit art or writing on a community rail or local theme, like favourite train trips or views. There’s some great examples out there already which you can find on our website.


Supporting rail partners

Our partners in rail and local government are facing huge challenges to keep basic services going, to serve key workers and support vulnerable people. Many of our usual contacts are being redeployed, or having to deal with other, pressing priorities. We’re therefore encouraging all our members to be as supportive and considerate as possible, and consider if you can use our team as a first port of call for your query. At the same time, keep following your partners’ updates, to see if there’s anything you can promote or support.


Further advice

Keep following government guidance for your part of the country (England, Wales or Scotland), and ensure staff and volunteers are up-to-date too: especially staying at home as much as possible, avoiding non-essential travel, regular and thorough hand-washing, and self-isolating if you or a family member experiences any symptoms. Specific UK government advice on ensuring the transport network is safe for those who need it is also available.

Also see NCVO guidance for the third sector. NCVO’s advice includes carefully managing your finances during this time; please talk to our team if you have any worries about your financial security.

You can also see National Rail travel advice on how the rail industry is supporting essential workers during this time, as well links to guidance from individual train operators and how people can claim refunds on their tickets.

Our team is entirely working from home and our office closed, but you can get in touch by email or mobile with any queries – see our meet the team page.

Please also make sure you’re signed up to our email bulletin, now being issued every Wednesday, for further advice on adapting and coping, plus updates on our member services and events, most of which are being adjusted as needed and continued. You can also keep in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook, and use our Facebook groups to chat to other members.


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