Covid: Train bosses say social distancing not always possible

Wales’ train operator has been accused of “empty words” after failing to enforce social distancing rules.

Arfon MP Hywel Williams said Transport for Wales (TfW) had pledged to make the safety of customers an “absolute priority”.

However, he said the rail service then issued guidance to staff telling them not to enforce social distancing rules.

TfW said that as passenger demand increases, social distancing “will not always be possible” during busy times.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in anti-social behaviour towards our front-line staff and it is not the responsibility of individual conductors to enforce Covid regulations,” said TfW’s safety and sustainability director Leyton Powell.

“So we work closely with the British Transport Police and security staff to encourage passengers to follow the latest Covid rules.”

  • Q&A: What are Wales’ lockdown rules?
  • Transport for Wales gets extra £70m from taxpayers
  • ‘Urgent change’ to get people back on trains

He said it was important passengers planned ahead and made “responsible decisions” on their need to travel.

But Mr Williams said: “Expecting ticket-paying travellers to cram into overcrowded trains is unacceptable under normal circumstances, but to allow those conditions when Covid cases are on the rise is totally irresponsible.

“TfW and the Welsh government must urgently reassess their guidance so that staff, as well as passengers, are protected as journeys increase over the summer.”

Nia Jones, who lives in Mr Williams’ constituency of Arfon, also called for action after describing a trip from Crewe to Bangor as “an extremely uncomfortable experience”.



image copyrightGetty Images

She said: “The train was at full capacity, with no means of properly enforcing social distancing, forcing passengers to sit side-by-side and stand in the aisles.

“TfW managers must consider what impact their hands-off approach to safety measures will have on passengers’ confidence in their services.”

Calls were made for an investigation last month after images emerged of packed trains.

Adam Smith had said he felt “anxious” after getting on a train back to his home in Newport from Barry Island, on the June Bank Holiday Monday, which had standing room only.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
Following this, Wales’ train operator wrote to MPs and said: “At TfW, the safety of our customers and your constituents is an absolute priority for us, and as society gradually unlocks as we move through the coronavirus pandemic, we’re continually reviewing the services we deliver to provide the best and safest possible experience for customers.”

However, Mr Williams accused the operator of “empty words” after being shown a copy of guidance given to conductors.


Transport for Wales communication


It is entitled “management of on train social distancing” and references the “large volumes of passengers” travelling by train on some routes, which provides “challenges”.

It said social distance capacity numbers were based on individuals travelling alone – however, it said there were several factors that could influence what the “safe capacity” is.

These include groups travelling in bubbles, families or vulnerable people travelling with carers.

“The numbers provided are a baseline for reporting social distancing capacity breaches and must not be enforced,” it adds.


Man in forensic suit at train station

image copyrightGetty Images

“We request this to balance of risk to colleagues in trying to enforce these numbers and so as not to introduce other risks to other passengers by doing so.

“We provide information to passengers to make their own decision if they are happy to board the train.”

All of TfW’s carriages are currently in use and the fact more than 75% of train stations are unmanned makes it even more difficult to enforce social distancing.

However, Mr Powell said conductors were encouraged to report breaches of social distancing and this information was used to look at increasing capacity, running supplementary bus services or deploying more security.

“The safety of our customers and colleagues has been a priority throughout the pandemic and we continue to implement many safety measures following industry and government guidance, including enhanced cleaning regimes on trains and at stations, queuing systems during peak times, free hand sanitiser at key stations and by ensuring people wear face coverings, unless exempt,” he added.

Mr Powell urged people to use the capacity checker tool before travelling.

Comments are closed.