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Coronavirus COVID-19

Briefing to members and the travelling public

Railfuture takes the health and safety of its members and the travelling public extremely seriously, as does the rail industry with its passengers and staff. We want to campaign in a safe environment, aware of the dangers of COVID-19, taking account of measures being taken by rail operators to make rail travel safe, and aware of advice from government and health organisations.

Government advice

To protect yourself and to ensure compliance with legal requirements it is essential to keep abreast of government advice, noting that there are differences between England, Scotland and Wales. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have legal responsibility for COVID-19 advice in Scotland and Wales which applies to everybody when in those countries.

The GOV.UK website gives up to date information for England and GOV.Scot and GOV.Wales give up to date information for Scotland and Wales.

NHS advice, getting a test, Track and Trace

The NHS website gives advice on how to protect yourself against COVID-19.

Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently and not touching your face when out and about, together with mask wearing and social distancing, remain the principal levels of defence against contracting COVID-19.

The NHS Website also gives advice on symptoms of COVID-19 and how to arrange a test to detect if you have the virus. The quick test known as a lateral flow test gives a result within 30 minutes. Tests are now available to everybody with or without symptoms of COVID-19, for home testing. Members should register with NHS and do the tests about twice per week and input results within 24 hours of each test.

Railfuture members and friends are advised to load the NHS Track and Trace app on to your smartphone or tablet, as registering using the QR codes displayed at many locations is mandatory to gain entry. The website describes how the system works.

Meetings and Travel - the general situation

From 5 January 2021, all nations in the UK were put in lockdown and travel was only allowed for a list of permissible reasons such as for work (only if not possible from home), education, caring and medical appointments.

On 12 April 2021 the government eased these restrictions somewhat, including allowing non essential shops to reopen as well as permitting outdoor activity such as outdoor service in pubs and restaurants. Public transport became available for everybody to use again for any reason within Britain, but the wearing of masks and social distancing requirements remain in force.

The advice on home working and meetings did not change on 17 May 2021.

This update is provided because the most significant stage in the easing of lockdown took place on 17 May. Freedom of movement is maintained, but in Scotland localised restrictions were put in place where virus transmission remained high as in Moray and Glasgow. This may also apply to specific areas in England with high virus transmission, such as in Bolton and Blackburn. The big change from 17 May is that people may visit pubs and restaurants for inside dining, and holidays within the UK can resume.

All Railfuture meetings are taking place in virtual format currently, but it is our intention to hold the Railfuture AGM as an in person meeting in Birmingham on Saturday 17 July 2021.

The rail response

Rail services within Britain were reduced during the height of the pandemic, but from the 17 May 2021 timetable many services have been restored in preparation for a resumption in leisure and holiday travel. All train operators have implemented advanced cleaning regimes to minimise the risk of the virus remaining on high touch surfaces.

Wearing face masks remains compulsory on all public transport including trains and at stations. You can be fined for not complying.

Train companies are now asking us all to 'Stay safe' by adopting these guidelines when using public transport:
  • avoid busy times
  • wear a mandatory face covering (see how to make and wear a face mask)
  • wash your hands before and after your journey
  • carry a hand sanitiser with you
  • reserve a seat where possible
  • passengers are also asked to buy tickets on line or use smartcards, and to show consideration to others when on busy trains or disembarking.
The government had announced a review in late May with a view to ending all outstanding restrictions by 21 June 2021. Current advice is that this may be delayed, should outbreaks such as in Bolton remain a concern.

Trips abroad

Railfuture is aware that many members and rail supporters plan ahead to take holidays abroad and that the travel situation is changing rapidly. The Worldometers website is updated daily and gives the virus spread situation in every country affected. Prior to 17 May 2021 all travel abroad was illegal except in some specific essential circumstances.

The government rules changed on 17 May 2021 in that a replacement traffic light system was put in place regarding international travel for leisure. All three categories, red, amber and green require the more accurate lab analysed, PCR tests before and after an international trip, and you must complete a passenger locator form before your return. The green category does not require quarantine, amber does, but at home, and red requires a very expensive supervised hotel quarantine. It is important to remember also that this is the British government requirement, so it is essential to check the rules for entry into the country you wish to visit.

There are 12 countries on the green list so far and only 3 can be described as short haul: Gibraltar, Portugal (including Madeira) and Israel. We can expect the list to change following regular government reviews of the situation world-wide. Railfuture would not recommend travel to Israel at present.

None of these destinations so far are accessible by rail on account of distance and the need to travel through intermediate countries.

Travel to an amber designated country is currently feasible with care, provided you take the required tests and are prepared to self quarantine at home on return. From 17 May 2021 it is no longer illegal to travel to an amber list country but the government recommend that people should not travel.

Eurostar is operating a very limited service to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.. The formerly popular Amsterdam service, withdrawn when the pandemic started, was reinstated on July 9th last year and since includes a new direct Amsterdam to London daily train. (Note Eurostar has not committed to reopening Ebbsfleet and Ashford stations.) The Marseille and Ski train services have been withdrawn for 2021 as have many international trains, some of which are re-starting between EU mainland countries. There are also rules regarding additional test on entry into amber list countries and before returning.

It is essential to make sure you are up to date with possible changing government advice from the UK government and the situation at your destination. There are also rules regarding additional tests on entry into amber list countries and before returning. It is also wise to check that any bookings are changeable or refundable including for cancellation as a result of external reasons, such as government advice.

If you plan to travel with a tour operator or book through a travel agency it is important to check and ensure it is properly bonded or ATOL protected and insured, and that you are properly insured to avoid being stranded. All operators should be able to produce evidence of this.

Railfuture does not operate foreign tours, and will not publish advertisements from any rail or tour operator unable to demonstrate proper protection for potential clients. There are many bona fide agents available, all of which display evidence of customer protection in their promotional material.

Please note. This briefing provides a general update on the situation across Britain, including for international travel. There are small differences in Scotland and Wales.

Disclaimer. This advice is provided in good faith to give general information to members with the request to be cautious and to check on government requirements, particularly for any proposed international travel. Railfuture does not accept any liability.

Updated 17 May 2021. Railfuture will continue to update this advice as the situation progresses and further changes are made.

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