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 27 November 2020

We urge all those in community rail to keep up-to-date with the latest government requirements and advice for EnglandScotland or Wales and your local area. With the return to a tier system on 2 December in England, and already in place in Scotland, these vary between local areas, as well as nations.

It’s important to ensure you comply with the rules, and align with the approach and messaging of your train operator(s) and local authority/ies, and that you do as much as you can to keep yourselves and others safe.

This page aims to supplement official rules and guidance by helping those in community rail understand what it means for them. For further advice, please contact our team


Meetings and working from home

We continue to advise members to work from home and run events and meetings online. Where and if in-person meetings are permitted, ensure you comply with social distancing and other regulations. We strongly recommend continuing to provide online access to allow involvement from those who may not be able or comfortable attending a physical meeting. Planning ahead is important, and it’s advisable to assume that restrictions on face-to-face meetings and events will continue for some time.

We can offer advice on technical communications needs, from setting up Zoom and Teams meetings to social media messaging. If you need help, please contact our team. The LGA has also put together a list of video conferencing and audio platforms to enable groups to stay in touch.

At present our staff team are unable to undertake any in-person meetings and will continue to use online and phone communications. This will be kept under review as government advice changes.


Community rail events and networking

All our events have been rescheduled or moved online and this will continue at least until the end of March 2021. 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, professionally and personally. Our training and development team have produced guidance on how to cope with change, which we hope is useful. Do let us know how you’re adapting, planning ahead and keeping going.

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 challenges on our rail network, many of the usual station adoption/friends activities continue to be paused or scaled down, although many groups are keeping active and engaging their communities through creative at-home and online activities.

Make sure you check with your train operator on what is currently permitted at your station(s) and your local restrictions. Whatever they permit, ensure you stay at home if you are feeling unwell or showing any signs of Covid-19.

Where community rail activities on stations are permitted, remember:

  • The railway continues to be operational even where a lockdown is in place. DO NOT go on the railway tracks, off the platform or closer than 2 metres to the platform edge;
  • Stick to the maximum numbers of volunteers on the station, as set by your train operator: depending on the area, this is two, four or six volunteers at the same time;
  • Volunteers should keep 2 metres from each other;
  • Visits should be made at quieter times of the day;
  • Limit the number of visits made to a station each week;
  • Restrict activities to essentials, e.g. weeding, planting and watering, or (where permitted) litter picking and updating noticeboards;
  • wear face coverings (unless exempt) 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;
  • Keep away from passengers, railway staff and avoid activities at pinch points where social distancing is difficult;
  • Pause activities when a train arrives or departs to allow passengers and staff to have as much space on the station as possible;
  • Don’t travel long distances to visit a station to volunteer, and walk or cycle if you can; follow your local rules and restrictions on travel;
  • Don’t interfere with any train operator signage, posters or on seats related to Covid-19;
  • Bring your own tools and leave nothing behind on the station when you leave.

Keep up to date on details of additional localised restrictions currently in force in England Scotland and Wales.

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


Advice on travel

In much of England, and parts of Scotland, you should only travel if necessary, and avoid travelling into or out of certain areas. Rail travel in Wales is currently unrestricted, but rail travel to outside of Wales is permitted under limited circumstances. However, for those who need to 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:

  • Follow travel restrictions where you are.
  • 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, unless exempt (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 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, and encourage all our members to plan ahead for when we can proactively promote rail travel again (see below). Our team can advise on community rail playing this important role.


Local engagement, planning 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.

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.

Consider too if you can support work 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? See our briefing on community rail’s role in recovery.


Communications and marketing

This is a good time to make sure your online and social media channels are up to date and effective.

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. Don’t forget that Community Rail Network and some train operators have grants that may be able to help you fund improvements to your website.

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.


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. While we can’t run workshops or try the train trips, these can be planned for in future by talking to local educators, youth groups, and your local train operator. Some of our members are also finding ways to engage children, young people and families through digital means: ask our team if you’d like to be put in touch with others using these methods.

You can also 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 as well as in devolved 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 (EnglandWales 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.


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