Rail union demands compulsory Covid safety measures as services increase
Train companies increased services on Monday to cope with the easing of coronavirus travel restrictions in England as unions called for compulsory safety measures.
Rail services in England were increased to 70% from 50% as the government controversially decided to lift some of the lockdown measures in an effort to kick start the economy. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have rejected the move and are encouraging people to stay at home to stop the spread of the virus.
Capacity on trains would be cut to 10% to allow physical distancing and passengers were urged to avoid non-essential travel. People are being encouraged to go back to work in England, but only use public transport for journeys when they have no alternative.
Passengers travelling by train were asked to wear a face covering and keep a two-metre distance from other people where possible.
The RMT union, which is opposed to the early relaxation of lockdown measures, demanded compulsory two metre social distancing on trains “whose confined spaces mean there is a greater risk of infection”. It added that face masks should also be mandatory and provided for free at stations.
“It is mystifying that there is a requirement for passengers on Eurostar services in the UK to wear masks but not on other UK rail services,” said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.
“We have the crazy situation of Eurostar passengers arriving with masks on into St Pancras but then not wearing masks when they transfer to the tube or other rail services.”
“We are opposed to the early relaxation of lockdown measures and believe that non-essential workers should avoid using trains. When people absolutely must use a train there should be two new compulsory protections.
New crowd-control measures at stations included stopping passengers boarding a train or entering a platform if there were already too many people. Some rail companies were demanding that passengers had a reservation before boarding.