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, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland 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.

A significant stage in the easing of lockdown took place on May 17. Freedom of movement is maintained, but in Scotland, localised restrictions may be applied in areas where virus transmission remains high. The big change from 17 May 2021 was 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. The Railfuture AGM will be held as an in person meeting in Birmingham and from 19 Jul 2021 may take place in either virtual or in person format.

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 is a legal requirement on all public transport including trains and at stations until 19 July 2021. Thereafter rail passengers will still be expected to wear face masks, and London Underground for example will not allow people to travel without a face mask.

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
  • 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 have announced their intention of phasing out all remaining restrictions starting on 19 July 2021 in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow.

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. From 17 May 2021, international travel was not advised, so affecting insurance arrangements. The advice not to travel clause is removed from 19 July 2021.

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. From 19 July 2021 people returning from an amber list country fully vaccinated in the UK, are no longer required to self quarantine on return to the UK from a holiday abroad.

The list of red, amber and green countries is maintained by and regularly updated by government.

Travel to a green or amber list country will be feasible for fully vaccinated travellers from 19 July 2021 with care, provided you take the required tests and that the destination country allows entry to people from the UK. Many do not at present.

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.

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 16 July 2021. Railfuture will continue to update this advice as the situation progresses and further changes are made.