Guidance for community rail partnerships and station friends on the Coronavirus

Guidance for community rail partnerships and station friends on the Coronavirus

19 May, 2021

Updated 9 August 2021

We urge all those in community rail to keep up-to-date and follow the latest government requirements and advice for EnglandScotland or Wales and your area. It’s important you comply with government rules, align with the approach and messaging of your train operator(s) and local authority/ies, and 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. This information had been developed and regularly updated through the pandemic and lockdown easing roadmap, in light of official government rules and information for England, Scotland and Wales, NCVO advice on volunteering, and consultation with the National Community Rail Steering Group.

For further advice, please contact our team

Meetings and working from home

UK Government advice for England no longer instructs people to work from home, and while most legal restrictions are being lifted, the prevalence of coronavirus means we must continue to manage, and mitigate, the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace. Community Rail Network will do this by continuing to review and update risk assessments, as well as following Government guidelines and explaining to staff the measures we have in place. We also ask staff to continue using their personal judgement to help manage their own risk and protect others. 

In Wales, people are still being asked to work from home wherever possible, and in Scotland, people should work from home, or combine a mixture of home and office working.

We recommend that CRPs in England continue taking a flexible approach to staff working from home and minimising journeys, but with a gradual return to offices over the summer months. We recommend retaining measures to keep your workplace sanitised, minimising physical contact, and stipulating that staff should not come in if at all unwell or if they have tested positive. We are happy to advise on a suitable policy.

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

Our staff team continue to use online and phone communications to support and advise members and partners as usual and are contactable by mobile or email.

Volunteering, station adoption, and meeting with others

Volunteering activity including station adoption should now be possible across England, Scotland, and Wales, but remains dependent on the local situation and guidelines from train operators, which may be more stringent than the below/official advice.

Across England, Scotland, and Wales, all legal restrictions on outdoor and indoor gatherings have been lifted.

Some train operators may continue to have specific/different restrictions in place for numbers of volunteers and locations/times where activity and/or meetings are permitted – make sure you’re up to date with this.

Where volunteer activities on stations are permitted, remember:

  • Always check with your train operator what is currently allowed at your station(s)/location(s).
  • Whatever is allowed, you must still stay at home if you are feeling unwell or showing any signs of Covid-19;
  • If relevant, stick to the maximum numbers of volunteers on the station, as set by your train operator, e.g. two, three, four or six volunteers at the same time;
  • While social distancing rules (2 metres or 1 metre with additional mitigations) have been lifted, you should continue to consider the risks of close contact with others, particularly if you are clinically extremely vulnerable or not yet fully vaccinated, as the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 is generally higher. We recommend avoiding direct physical contact with others outside your household, and to be respectful of people’s personal space, as some may feel anxious about increased proximity to others;
  • Visits to stations should where possible still be made only at quieter times of the day/week;
  • The UK government is dropping the legal requirement to wear a face covering on public transport in England, however we would recommend wearing face coverings (unless exempt) in enclosed spaces where others are present out of respect for others. Face coverings continue to be mandatory on public transport in Wales and Scotland;
  • 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 ‘touch points’ (surfaces others are likely to touch, like railings and doors) and avoid touching these if possible, or 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 local rules and railway guidance on travel;
  • Don’t interfere with any rail/transport/local authority signage, posters or arrangements related to Covid-19;
  • Bring your own tools and leave nothing behind on the station when you leave;
  • The railway continues to be operational, so continue to follow the usual essential safety precautions (see our station adoption handbook), e.g. DO NOT go on the railway tracks, off the platform or closer than two metres to the platform edge.

Many groups are also continuing to actively engage communities through creative and online activities at home – and we recommend considering how these types of engagement can continue, even as on-station activities resume. If you’re looking for ideas of what you can do, see these ideas from one station adopter or our news stories or speak to our team.

Community rail events and networking

All our events have been moved online and this will continue at least until Autumn 2021. See our events diary for opportunities to hear about good practice and connect with fellow community railers. Our team can also put you in touch with other members or partners if you’re looking for advice or experience on particular activities.

Advice on safe travel

People can now travel freely between England, Scotland, and Wales.

Community rail can play a key role in promoting safe travel guidance, as well as maintaining and building positivity and awareness about rail (see below). Key messages include:

  • Follow travel restrictions where you are;
  • Do not travel if you feel unwell or have symptoms;
  • Face coverings in England are no longer mandatory (with the exception of TfL services at the time of writing – please keep up-to-date if there are changing rules where you are), however they do remain mandatory in Scotland, and Wales, and we recommend considering continuing to wear a mask in any enclosed space where others are present;
  • Wash your hands before and after your journey and carry and use hand sanitiser.

Communications and marketing

Rebuilding rail confidence, positivity, and patronage, and encouraging and supporting wider groups to use rail, will be a key focus for community rail over the months and years ahead, as we rebuild from the pandemic and work to make transport more sustainable.

Our team can offer a range of advice and support on this. See our guidance on communications and marketing, to help you assess channels you’re using and how you can start proactively promoting rail travel again, and our materials on tourism and leisure promotion, which is especially important going forward. Our team can provide further advice directly, plus we have events coming up you can get involved in. Do also keep in touch with your train operator(s) on their rail recovery promotional plans and look out for news in our bulletins on national campaigns.

This is an important time to make sure your website and social media channels are up to date and effective. Again, see our resources on marketing and communications or contact our team. Community Rail Network and some train operators offer grants that might fund website improvements.

Supporting rail partners

The pandemic has brought major challenges for our partners in rail and government. 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 queries. At the same time, keep following railway partners’ updates, to see if there’s anything you can promote or support, and offer to input into their recovery plans (this briefing may help).

Further advice

NCVO has guidance for the third sector, including on carefully managing your finances during this time. Please talk to our team if you have any worries about financial security.

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.

Stay Safe.

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