Community Rail Network (CRN) has issued the following guidance. This should be read in conjunction with more specific guidance from the appropriate train operating company (TOC), who may have their own timescales which should take precedence.
1 Apr, 2020
Updated 3 March 2021
We urge all those in community rail to keep up-to-date and follow the latest government requirements and advice for England, Scotland 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. For further advice, please refer to official rules and guidelines through the links to government sites above, or contact our team for their community rail input.
On 22 February, the government announced a 4-step plan to ease lockdown in England. Before each step, the government will review the latest data against four tests. Having reviewed the government’s information, NCVO advice on volunteering, and consulted the National Community Rail Steering Group, we have updated our guidance below, related to step 1 of the roadmap, and changes scheduled in England on 8 and 29 March, although please note that this all ultimately depends on the plan progressing as hoped.
We await further updates and dates on lockdown easing in Wales and Scotland and will update our guidance as appropriate.
Meetings and working from home
England, Wales and Scotland remain in national lockdown and stay at home restrictions still apply, with official guidelines stating everyone must work from home unless they are unable to. As such, CRPs should continue to work from home, but we will continue to 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 and station adopters
From 8 March, we advise that some groups may be able to resume limited, outdoors station volunteering activity in England, in groups of 2-3 people, up to two households, only as and when train operators have given permission, and with volunteers staying local and following the guidance in the bullet points below.
From 29 March, we advise that some groups may be able to resume outdoors station volunteering activity in England, in groups of up to six, only as and when train operators have given permission, and with volunteers staying local and following the guidance in the bullet points below.
Some groups may not be able to resume activities on these dates in these ways, dependent on the local situation and guidelines from the train operator. Some train operators have indicated that 29 March will be the earliest date volunteers can return to stations in their area. Some may also put specific/different restrictions in place for numbers of volunteers and locations/times where activity is permitted.
In Scotland and Wales, all station adoption/friends/community rail activities at and around stations continue to be on hold. We will keep monitoring this, in discussion with railway partners.
We continue to work with railway partners to ensure there are timely communications to groups and partnerships when activities can start up.
Where volunteer activities on stations are permitted, remember that you should:
- Always check with your train operator what is currently allowed at your station(s)/location(s). Whatever they permit, 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 restrictions 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 when on-station activities resume. If you’re looking for ideas of what you can do without being on the station, 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 rescheduled or moved online and this will continue at least until Spring 2021. We are currently preparing for our conference for community rail partnerships to take place online over the next two weeks, and further webinars and online courses will be set up in the Spring. See our events diary for opportunities to hear about good practice and connect with your 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 of you, 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 travel
In England, this will remain the case from 8 March onwards. If restrictions are eased according to plan on 29 March, people will still be asked to ‘minimise’ travel. Household mixing indoors (e.g. on a train) will still not be allowed, and people still won’t be able to take holidays in the UK or abroad. See England’s roadmap and Scotland’s strategic framework for official forward plans.
For those who need to travel, community rail can play a key role in promoting safe travel guidance. Some key messages community rail can help to promote include:
- Follow travel restrictions where you are;
- Do not travel if you feel unwell or have symptoms;
- Keep two metres away from others. Even where the distance has been reduced to one metre, governments continue to recommend two 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. Be aware of restrictions specific to a station or train operator (e.g. reservation-only travel). See our handy list showing where to find information on how busy different trains are;
- Be aware of changes in how you enter, exit, or move around stations: some have different queueing or one-way systems in place.
You can also see our general advice on how to use communications to encourage confidence and positivity about rail and sustainable travel, to help you plan ahead for when we can proactively promote rail travel again. Our team can advise.
Communications and marketing
This is a good time to make sure your online and social media channels are up to date and effective. If you need help or advice using and improving your communication channels, such as your website, social media or engaging local media, see our resources on marketing and communications or tourism promotion, or contact our team.
Don’t forget that Community Rail Network and some train operators have grants that may be able to help you fund improvements to your website.
Take care with communications that you aren’t seen to be breaching government advice. For example, if sharing a photo where people are not social distancing, be clear it’s from pre-Covid.
Local engagement, planning and partnership working
Keep communicating with staff, volunteers, communities, and partners, using phone, email, social media and online. Reinforce the sense of community and use the chance to plan ahead to positive work you’ll do together in the future. Consider new partners you could work with to help your community recover and rebuild.
Communities around Britain are finding ways to cope and build resilience, especially by mobilising volunteer support to assist the most vulnerable. Many local authorities are coordinating initiatives, and you may have local community groups that are looking for extra support. This is a good time to build links and consider working together longer term.
Consider too how you can play a maximum role in Covid-19 recovery and ‘building back better’. For example, many local authorities are developing walking and cycling networks due to increased government funding – could you advise them on making connections with rail? See our briefing on community rail’s role in recovery.
Activities with children and young people
A big part of community rail is engaging children, young people, and families, to build awareness and confidence about rail and sustainable travel. While we can’t run workshops or try the train trips, these can be planned for the future 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.
You can also still promote rail-related information and resources on your website, or social media, or promote a call out for people in your area to submit art or writing on a community rail or local theme, like favourite train trips or views. See these examples. Also see our youth engagement report to consider how you can develop this work in future.
Supporting rail partners
Our partners in rail and government are facing big challenges. 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 your query. At the same time, keep following 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).
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.