Coronavirus - the rail industry's response

Page last updated Friday 20 March 2020, 09:57

The health and wellbeing of our passengers and staff is always our top priority. We know passengers may have concerns, and rail companies are working closely with government to take the steps needed to keep our vital services moving while keeping customers safe.

Travel advice

We are asking passengers to follow the latest advice from government and public health officials. Visit the NHS website for the latest Coronavirus guidance.

The government has advised people against non-essential travel. If your journey is essential and you need to go by train, please check before you set out. You should also follow public health advice: if you need to cough or sneeze, please ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’.

If you or the people you live with have symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), you should stay at home. Protect yourself. Protect others. Protect the NHS.

What this means for your services

We are entering the second phase of our three-stage plan to manage services in response to the Coronavirus outbreak and ensure that vital train services for key workers can keep running throughout a prolonged period of lower staff numbers and customer journeys.

Working together with government, we are moving to a reduced timetable from Monday 23 March which will see around half the usual number of trains running compared to a normal weekday. Early morning and late evening services are being protected wherever possible to support those doing shift work.

As part of the first phase of our plan, we have been:

  • Sharing advice and information about how to stay healthy - there are public health posters and other information around stations and on trains.
  • Doing more to ensure our trains and stations are clean. The kinds of steps being taken include a greater focus on cleaning high-touch areas in trains and at stations, such as handrails and ticket machine touch screens, increasing the use of anti-viral cleaning products and ensuring toilets are well stocked with soap and water. Trains are also being checked regularly throughout the day in addition to the cleaning which takes place in depots.
  • Recognising that people’s travel plans may have changed since booking a ticket, so all train companies are suspending the £10 admin fee on refundable train tickets they have sold. If you have an Off-peak or Anytime ticket and decide not to travel due to concerns about Coronavirus, you can get a fee-free 100% refund. If you have a discounted Advance ticket, all train companies have agreed to waive the £10 admin fee so you can travel at a later date, if you choose. To do this, contact the retailer you booked with. Further information on ticket refunds can be found in the Q&A below.
  • Where possible and appropriate, protecting frontline staff by reducing contact at ticket barriers, reducing the need for people to handle tickets and cash and removing on-board catering.

How you can help

To reduce the transmission of Coronavirus, that people should avoid non-essential use of public transport. When at our stations or travelling by train, we’re encouraging everyone to follow the latest expert advice:

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the bin.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid travelling if you feel unwell and have symptoms of Coronavirus – a new, continuous cough or a high temperature.

For people making essential journeys, we ask that you check before you travel as some train times will change from Monday 23 March. We also encourage you to purchase your ticket online if you can, to support the government’s social distancing advice.

Common questions

Here, we provide answers to some of the most common questions rail passengers might have about what Coronavirus means for them, their journey and the railway.

Travelling by train

What is your advice to passengers who are unwell and need to travel home?
If people have symptoms of Coronavirus and need to travel home to self-isolate, they may do so but they should try to keep away from other people and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue.

I need assistance to complete my journey. Will this still be available? Even if I have symptoms of Coronavirus?
Staff will remain on hand to help those who need assistance get to their home station safely, including physical assistance such as guiding or pushing a wheelchair if needed. Passengers do not need to book assistance in advance, but if they do, this will help us to get them to where they need to be more quickly.

Should rail passengers and staff wear facemasks?
The latest advice from Public Health England is that facemasks have limited value in preventing infection.


If I decide not to travel due to concerns about Coronavirus, will I get a refund?
Train companies understand that people will be changing their plans and will be increasing support for our customers who decide against travelling as originally intended.

All operators have agreed that from Tuesday 17 March, customers can get 100% of their fare back on Off-Peak and Anytime tickets with no admin fees. In the case of Advance tickets, which are not refundable but can be changed for a fee, operators and retailers will allow fee-free changes if someone decides to travel on another service, using the value of the fare as credit towards a new ticket. For full details, you should contact the company or retailer that sold your original ticket.

More details on changing Advance tickets.

I have an Advance ticket for a train that has been cancelled as part of the new reduced timetable. Can I get a refund?
Yes, if the train you intended to use is cancelled once the new timetable comes into effect, you will be able to get a full refund with no admin fees. You should contact the train operator or the retailer that sold your ticket for a refund.

I have bought a Season Ticket but will now be working from home. Can I get a refund?
Train companies understand that at the moment people may not wish to travel in the way they had originally planned. Season Tickets can be refunded, depending on how long is left unused on them, and people should get in touch with their train company or the retailer that sold their ticket, to see what they might be entitled to. For more information, see the Season Ticket Conditions page.

Rail industry preparations

What preparations are rail companies making to keep services running during a widespread outbreak of Coronavirus?

From Monday 23 March, we are moving to a reduced timetable to ensure that vital train services can keep running throughout a prolonged coronavirus outbreak. This will ensure that key workers like nurses, police officers and firefighters can get to work. It will see approximately half the usual number of trains running compared to a normal weekday.

This is part of a three-stage plan to manage services during an unprecedented period, which has so far focussed on targeted, local variations in service, as railway workers have increasingly been affected by Coronavirus. The national move to a reduced timetable marks the second phase in the industry’s response to the virus.

If rail staff get sick will services be cancelled?
Like everyone, our staff may be affected by Coronavirus and this will limit our ability to operate a full service. Our move to a reduced timetable balances current significantly reduced levels of demand with the need to reduce the number of people required to run the network, which will help to ensure there are enough staff to keep services running over the coming weeks and months.

We will protect the most important routes and services so that vital freight and commuter trains keep moving.

How can I find out if the train I want to travel on is still running?
You can search for your journey on the National Rail website or app. Alternatively, go to the website of the train operator you plan to travel with for more information about their new timetables.

How are you helping to minimise the spread of the virus for those that have to travel?
Rail companies are also doing more to ensure our trains and stations are clean. The kinds of steps being taken include a greater focus on cleaning high-touch areas in trains and at stations, increasing the use of anti-viral cleaning products and ensuring toilets are well stocked with soap and water.

We are also ensuring our people are kept aware of the latest advice to maintain good hand hygiene and putting up advice posters in stations and on trains. We’re asking passengers to support our efforts to delay the spread of Coronavirus by following public health advice for everyone to wash their hands regularly and to ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ when they cough or sneeze.

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