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Rail travel restrictions to be lifted on Friday

By David G Scott

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Scotland’s rail operator urged customers to ‘plan ahead to stay safe’ as travel restrictions are lifted from Friday.

Yesterday, the Scottish government announced that, from Friday, people will be permitted to travel across Scotland to meet in groups of up to six adults from six households in outdoor settings.

Thurso railway station. Picture: DGS
Thurso railway station. Picture: DGS

David Simpson, ScotRail operations director, said: “Those travelling from this Friday will experience a very different railway compared to the one they left more than a year ago. Timetables have changed because of the pandemic so we’re encouraging customers to check their journey well in advance. Customers should plan ahead to stay safe."

ScotRail said the measures introduced across the network – including enhanced cleaning of trains and stations, one-metre physical distancing rules, and a legal requirement to wear face masks – should allow customers to travel with confidence if they do decide to take the train.

Travel on trains will no longer be restricted to essential journeys only.

Train on far north line heading towards Thurso. Picture: DGS
Train on far north line heading towards Thurso. Picture: DGS

Passengers are being asked to play their part by continuing to heed ScotRail’s five rules for safer travel that are still required on trains and in stations:

1. Do not travel if you feel unwell or have a temperature.

2. Travel away from the main commuting times (7am – 9am and 4pm – 6.30pm) wherever possible, as trains will be busiest around then. The earliest and latest trains serve key workers, like NHS and care home staff.

3. If you think it’s not safe to board a train, don’t do it and wait for another service.

4. Wear a face mask or covering and maintain one-metre physical distancing.

5. Be patient. You might not be able to board your first choice of train, as physical distancing means some seats need to be left empty.

Under government regulations, Scotland’s rail operator has a minimum of one-metre physical distancing on trains and at stations. Platform markings and guidance at ticket vending machines are supporting station announcements and messages on customer information screens, to help customers during their journey.

The number of ScotRail services is currently around 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, while delivering 72 per cent of seats. The train operator will be increasing the number of services from Sunday, May 16. ScotRail is confident that the current service levels provide enough space to accommodate the easing of restrictions at this time, but is urging customers to plan ahead.

People waiting for a train at Thurso station before lockdown.
People waiting for a train at Thurso station before lockdown.

On potentially busy routes, particularly those serving coastal areas, the number of carriages will be increased on key services to provide as much space for physical distancing as possible.

ScotRail is warning customers to expect significant travel disruption on Sunday (April 18) because of strike action by the RMT. Conductors will be taking part in the industrial action for six consecutive Sundays, in a bid to force an increase in overtime payments at a time when ScotRail said it is "facing its worst ever financial crisis". Customers should consider alternative travel options on Sunday.

Details of the services affected are available on the ScotRail website – Passenger Disruption - Plan Your Journey.

Customers are reminded to buy in advance of travel via the ScotRail app, website, or station facilities to ensure waiting times are reduced and physical distancing supported. All customers must hold a valid ticket before boarding a train.

Given the reduced timetable in operation, ScotRail is urging customers to check last train times to ensure everyone is able to get home safe.

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