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 13 October 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, whilst bearing in mind that these are regularly updated and vary between and within nations. You can keep up to date on details on local restrictions currently in force in England, Scotland and Wales.


Meetings and working from home

We continue to advise members to work from home and run events and meetings online, as appropriate. Where in-person meetings are held, ensure you comply with social distancing and other regulations. We also strongly recommend continuing to provide online access to allow a wide variety of members and partner organisations who may not be able or comfortable attending a physical meeting.

Our support & development team is starting to return to occasional in-person meetings, where we assess that these are important and can be conducted safely and comply with local rules, but will continue to use online and phone communications in the majority of cases. This will be kept under review as government advice changes.


Community rail events and networking

All of our events have been rescheduled or moved online and this will continue at least until the end of 2020. See our Events Diary for our upcoming webinars, to hear about good practice and connect with your fellow community railers. Our team can also put you in touch with other members if you’re looking for advice or experience on particular community rail activities.


Dealing with change and uncertainty

We know this continues to be a difficult time for many of you, both professionally and personally. Do keep letting us know how you’re adapting, planning ahead and keeping going. Our training and development team have produced guidance on how to cope with change, which we hope is useful.

Make sure you’re keeping in touch with volunteers and contacts who may be feeling isolated and offer to help them where needed.


Volunteering and station adopters

Given the social distancing challenges on our rail network, many of the usual station adoption/friends activities continue to be paused or scaled down. The exceptions are where groups are given express permission from train operators that small numbers of volunteers may visit specific stations at certain, quiet times, while maintaining social distancing rules. Please continue to be aware that train operators have a lot of challenges at the moment and they are trying to balance government rules alongside competing needs.

If you are given permission to undertake activities on a station, make sure you:

  • wear face coverings while at stations to protect others and set a positive example, while also continuing to maintain social distancing rules;
  • carry hand sanitiser, to help avoid using passenger facilities for hand washing and sanitising, and use it regularly in line with advice;
  • be aware of station ‘touch points’ (i.e. surfaces others are likely to touch, like railings and doors) and avoid touching these if possible, or otherwise sanitise hands before and afterwards;

If you are looking for ideas of activities you can continue to do locally without being on the station, see these ideas from one station adopter.


Advice on travel

Community rail can play a key role in promoting travelling by rail with confidence and following safe travel guidance. Some of the key messages community rail can help to promote include:

  • Do not travel if you feel unwell or have symptoms.
  • Continue to keep your distance and remain 2 metres away from other people. Even where the distance has been reduced to 1 metre, governments continue to recommend 2 metres.
  • Ensure you wear face coverings on trains at all times (guidance is available on how to make a simple one at home). This is mandatory in England, Scotland and Wales, and in England and Scotland also includes within stations. In Wales three-layer coverings are advised .
  • It’s a good idea to keep face coverings on in public places, including at stations, to protect people around you. 
  • Wash your hands before and after your journey and carry your own hand sanitiser for use while travelling.
  • Travel on less busy services where possible. Be aware of restrictions specific to a station or train operator (some are reservation only). We have also produced a handy list showing where to find information on how busy different trains are.
  • Be alert to changes in how you enter and exit or move around stations. In some larger stations queueing or one-way systems have been introduced.

We also have useful advice on how to use communications to encourage confidence and positivity about rail and sustainable travel.


Communications and partnership working

Keep communicating with staff, volunteers, communities and partners, using phone, email, social media and online. Reinforce the sense of community and use the chance to plan ahead to positive work you’ll do together in the future. Consider new partners you could work with to help your community recover and rebuild.

Consider if you can support wider or related work in your community on Covid-19 recovery and ‘building back better’. For example, many local authorities are developing local walking and cycling networks due to increased government funding – could you advise them on making connections with rail?


Communications – technical support

We can offer advice on your technical communications needs, from setting Zoom and Teams meetings to creating effective social media messaging. If you need help in this area, please contact our team.

The Local Government Association has put together a comprehensive list of video conferencing and audio platforms to enable your groups to stay in touch. Most groups we work with use one of Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Skype.


Promoting positivity about rail

In areas where travel restrictions are eased and people start to travel again, community rail has an important part to play in rebuild trust and positivity in rail, and showing how it is a safe, sustainable and pleasant way to travel. Look to your local train operator(s) as well as latest government advice for England, Wales or Scotland to ensure you’re reinforcing the relevant messaging.

If you need help or advice using and improving your communication channels, such as your website, social media or engaging local media, see our resources on marketing and communications or tourism promotion, or contact our team.

Take care with communications that you aren’t seen to be breaching government advice. For example, if sharing a photo where people are not social distancing, be clear it’s from pre-Covid.


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 initiatives, and you may have local community groups that are looking for extra volunteer support. This is a good time to build stronger links and consider working together longer term.


Promoting activities with schools and young people

A big part of community rail is engaging children, young people and other groups, to build positivity, awareness and confidence about rail and your area. Whilst it is unlikely that members can run workshops or try the train trips at the moment these can be planned for as capacity on local services allows. Do speak to your local train operator about this too.

You can still 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. See these great examples on our website.


Supporting rail partners

Our partners in rail and local government are facing huge challenges. We encourage all our members to be as supportive and patient 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 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.

NCVO has specific 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.

Locality has produced a list of funding available to charities and the third sector during the pandemic.

The National Rail website includes the latest travel advice, as well as links to guidance from individual train operators, FAQs, and how to use face coverings.

Our team is 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, issued fortnightly on a Wednesday, for further advice on adapting, plus updates on our services and events. You can also keep in touch on Twitter and Facebook.


Link copied!

Journalists: get in touch for more information, comments and case studies

View media cente

Sign up to our monthly emails for regular community rail updates

Sign up