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 12 May 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

In England, Scotland, and Wales, guidance states that people should continue to work from home if they can.

We therefore recommend that CRPs continue working from home and minimise journeys, but we will monitor the official guidance and advise as this changes.

We 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.

From 17 May, in England, outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people will be allowed. Indoor gatherings will be limited to six people or two households of any size.

In Wales, six people from multiple households can meet anywhere outdoors. Two households can meet and have contact indoors.

In Scotland, up to six people from multiple households can meet outdoors, and up to six people from two households can socialise in an indoor public place. From 17 May, it is hoped (to be confirmed) that up to eight people from eight households will be able to socialise outdoors, and up to six people from three households in an indoor public space.

Some train operators 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;
  • 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;
  • Volunteers should keep two metres from each other;
  • Visits should be made only at quieter times of the day/week, and you should 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) at all times at stations to protect others and set a positive example, while 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 ‘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 Summer 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.

Dealing with change and uncertainty

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

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

Advice on safe travel

People can now travel freely between England, Scotland, and Wales. However, guidance states that people should plan journeys in advance and avoid unnecessary trips.

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;
  • Keep two metres away from others whenever possible;
  • Wear face coverings on trains at all times, unless exempt (see this advice on how to make one). This is mandatory in England, Scotland, and Wales, and in England and Scotland includes within stations. In Wales, three-layer coverings are advised;
  • Wash your hands before and after your journey and carry and use hand sanitiser;
  • Travel on less busy services where possible and be aware that some train operators are using reservation-only travel. See our list of info on how busy services are;
  • Be aware of changes in stations: some have different queueing or one-way systems.

Local partnership working and recovery

  • Consider how you can play a maximum role in Covid-19 recovery and ‘building back better’. See our briefing on recovery for ideas, and do speak to your railway, local authority, and other local partners to align plans.
  • As we move through the roadmap and look to establish a ‘new normal’ in the way we work, while facing the long-term repercussions of the pandemic, it remains crucial to keep communicating with and listening to staff, volunteers, communities, and partners. Reinforce the sense of community and use the chance to plan ahead to positive work you’ll do together in the future. Be aware and responsive to different people and partners’ views and positions. Consider new partners you could work with to help your community recover and rebuild. This is a good time to build links and consider working together longer term.

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.

Activities with families, children, and young people

While we can’t run events, workshops or try the train trips at the moment to engage children, young people, and families, these can be planned by talking to educators, youth groups, and train operators. Some of our members are finding ways to engage children, young people, and families through digital means: ask our team to be put in touch with others using these methods. Also see our youth engagement report to consider how you can develop this work.

You can also still promote railway information and resources on your website, or social media, or encourage people to engage creatively online. See these examples.

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.

Locality has produced a list of funding available to the community and voluntary 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.

Stay Safe

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