Answers to our questions to TfL and train companies on safety and security concerns as more people get back to work

Following the Government’s announcement on 10 May we asked TfL and rail companies a series of questions that need to be answered to ensure passengers can travel safely and maintain social distancing when travelling by public transport in the capital. You can find a summary of the responses we got back from TfL and rail companies (mainly via their industry body, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) below.

How will non-essential workers and non-workers be dissuaded from using services?


TfL say that they will be using a range of communication methods to promote the Government’s message that people should continue to work from home if they can and avoid using public transport. This will include traditional and social media, their website, customer emails, radio adverts, signage and posters across the transport network. They are also working with businesses, schools, councils and a range of other sectors and agencies.

They will encourage those who will be travelling to replan journeys, walk and cycle and travel outside peak hours. They are working with councils to increase space for safe walking and cycling across the city through new and already planned cycling routes, pavement widening and other measures.

National Rail

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG)told us that train companies will be urging people to follow the Government’s advice that people, including key workers, should only use public transport for essential journeys and that they should walk, cycle or use their cars wherever possible.

It is expected that from 18 May trains will have the maximum number of carriages possible.

How will you manage queuing in the station and on the platform?


TfL have told us that each station has a fully developed plan for dealing with congestion, with staff trained to work in real-time to prevent overcrowding. They admit that social distancing will be very difficult at some times and locations, particularly at interchange stations, where people change between lines without entering or leaving the station. Queueing will be managed outside the station and TfL have plans in place to set up and manage queuing systems where needed and practical.

National Rail

The RDG told us that train companies are urging passengers to stay safe by maintaining social distancing where possible and to plan ahead and check before they travel. They advise that people should leave plenty of time, avoid peak travel times and buy tickets online, on mobiles or on smartcards to enable social distancing to operate as effectively as possible.

They say that extensive planning is ongoing to ensure that passengers can move into and around stations and get on and off trains in a controlled way, using queuing systems, announcements, signage and other aids to manage passenger flows effectively. This will vary from station to station.

They are considering a range of options, including more controlled access to the platforms; creating platform zones which contain a certain number of passengers, and ensuring platforms at certain stations are marked-up with signage and markers to help people maintain social distancing. At busy stations staff will supervise queuing systems.

Train companies are also considering how best to control passenger flows when entering stations from other transport modes, such as the London Underground.

How will you deal with people breaking social distancing rules?


TfL say that they already have clear information for customers on Government social distancing guidelines and they will be increasing their communications on this. They have installed 2m social distancing stickers in stations and on platforms. They say it is impractical for their staff to enforce social distancing guidelines and admit that with the capacity constraints they face, there will be times when social distancing is simply not possible.

National Rail

The RDG tell us that while staff will be on hand to advise passengers at stations, they are not expected to enforce social distancing requirements as this is the responsibility of passengers. They admit that it will not be possible to maintain social distancing at all points on a journey so they are advising passengers to avoid peak travel times, maintain social distancing where possible, wear a face covering, wash their hands before and after their journey and carry hand sanitiser with them. While the British Transport Police will continue to support train companies at stations and on trains, they too will not be enforcing social distancing requirements in stations.

Avanti West Coast

From Monday 18 May passengers will only be able to board Aventi West Coast services if they have reserved a ticket. This has been brought in to limit the numbers of people using their trains and to enable them to be able to enforce social distancing rules.

Will numbers of passengers on the platform be limited? What if it is raining and they have to huddle under a canopy?


TfL say that they will continue to limit the number of customers that can enter a station at any one time to prevent crowding and allow social distancing. They have already increased their queuing capabilities at stations across London and will warn customers to expect to have to queue at many stations and to come prepared for all weathers.

National Rail

The RDG tell us that train companies are considering a range of options to manage passenger numbers on platforms. Platforms at some stations will be marked-up with suitable signage to help people maintain social distancing. They advise passengers to act responsibly, maintain social distancing where possible, wear a face covering, wash their hands before and after their journey, carry hand sanitiser with them and listen to and follow announcements from station and on-board staff.

They are also encouraging passengers to plan ahead for their journey and be prepared for a variety of weather conditions. Waiting rooms may be open where it is safe to do so but the number of people using them at any one time may be restricted. Toilets should be open, but access may be restricted and some parts may be closed off.

Will people be prevented from boarding a train that is deemed to be full? And if so, how will that be done? And what if I can’t get on because the train is full?


TfL told us that it will be up to customers to decide if a train is too full. They are reinforcing the message that if you must use public transport you should try to avoid peak times. If a customer decides a train is too full for them to get on they suggest that they should wait for the next scheduled service, or walk or cycle to their destination if they can.

National Rail

The RDG told us that where platform staff are present, they will try to ensure that everyone who needs to use public transport is able to do so at the same time as ensuring trains depart at their scheduled time. Train companies will be asking passengers to wait for the next service if a train is full.

All LNER train services are reservation-only and must be pre-booked. Please also be aware that neither Grand Central or First Hull Trains are running services at the moment. Therefore, LNER will be the only operator passengers will be able to use on those routes.

Should I wear a face covering?

The Government has now advised people travelling on public transport to wear a face covering – this applies to services provided by Transport for London and National Rail companies.

Is there any change in the advice to disabled people - for those using Passenger Assist on National Rail, or turn up and go on TfL?


TfL have advised that their Turn Up and Go service is still available for any customer that needs assistance to complete travel that is necessary. In order to protect their staff and customers they are adhering to government advice to maintain 2m of social distancing but staff are still able to use manual boarding ramps and offer assistance at a distance of 2m. Customers who require physical contact to complete their journey will be offering a special taxi paid for by TfL to ensure they can complete their journey safely.

National Rail

The RDG told us that passengers who need assistance during their journey can still book ahead but they may be asked extra questions to help staff plan how they can assist people safely. Train companies are also committed to help those who cannot book in advance. Staff will explain to passengers what they are doing at any point (such as using a sleeve to guide a customer) to give added reassurance that their safety is paramount.

All LNER train services are reservation-only and must be pre-booked and this applies to passenger assistance as well. Please also be aware that neither Grand Central or First Hull Trains are running services at the moment. Therefore, LNER will be the only operator passengers will be able to use on those routes.

Will Tube stations that were closed at the end of March be reopened?

TfL say that from 18 May they will be working to progressively build up service levels to pre-Covid19 levels as soon as possible. This includes working to reopen some of the 37 stations that have been closed for several weeks. However, some stations will stay closed for now so that staff are able to help manage congestion at busier stations.

Can passengers be alerted to which stations and what services are busy and at what times via TfL’s journey planner, on the National Rail Enquiries website and on social media?


TfL say that where they have the data, their Journey Planner is showing hotspots for crowding. They will continue to update the Journey Planner and consider how else they can share this information with customers. They will also be publishing hotspot data on their website, showing the busiest stations and lines to avoid.

National Rail

The RDG told us that the National Rail Enquiries website provides real time information for passengers. They are currently looking to add information about busy services and stations from the end of May.

Will Congestion Charges and Ultra Low Emission Zones be suspended until further notice?

TfL temporarily suspended the Congestion Charge, Ultra Low Emission Zone and Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in March to help people making essential journeys. Following the Government announcement on 10 May they are now considering when the charges might be reinstated.

Page last updated 13/5/20