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Free Spirits Guide to COVID Train Travel in the UK

Train travel is a carefree way to reach your holiday destination. Equally true if that’s by the sea, forest, or a charming market town.

As domestic tourism has now reopened, we thought we’d share how you can travel safely to any UK destination by rail, as well as provide you with some train holiday inspiration.

Is it Safe to Travel by Train during the Coronavirus Pandemic?

If you were wondering if you could travel by train during the pandemic. The answer is yes! You might also be surprised to hear, that train travel is one of the safest forms of public transport to use during the pandemic.

The risk of catching COVID-19 on a train is less than 0.01% on an average journey (or 1 in 11,000 journeys), and that is true even if you’re not wearing a face mask or practicing social distancing!

covid train travel rules

The risk then halves again when you follow National Rail COVID-19 travel rules and guidelines:

Top 10 COVID Train Travel Rules and Guidelines

  1. Take and use a hand sanitiser to wash your hands before, after, and during your journey.
  2. Wear your face-covering in enclosed areas and throughout your journey, unless you’re exempt.
  3. Keep a 2 metre distance between staff and other passengers on trains, platforms, and enclosed areas. You may also need to follow one-way systems, and queuing guidance.
  4. Take tissues to cover a cough or sneeze.
  5. Use your favourite device or a smartphone app, to book your tickets and pay contactless wherever possible.
  6. Travel at a quieter time than usual, (after 09:30 in cities and after 09:00 everywhere else).
  7. Arrive earlier than usual to avoid delays and allow sufficient time for your journey.
  8. Check your train’s departure time before leaving home, as well as any delays.
  9. If you or any of your party feel unwell avoid travelling, especially if COVID symptoms are present.
  10. For more information to protect yourself, download the NHS COVID-19 App.

train travel restrictions

COVID Train Travel Restrictions in the UK

During lockdown, the train industry closely monitored journeys. The data gathered informed adjustments to maximise space and ensure social distancing measures could be put in place. As a result, train travel post lockdown will look and feel different from your previous journey.

What does train travel look like post lockdown?

  • There has been an increase in cleaning throughout trains and stations. For instance, high-touch areas on trains and at stations (like handrails, ticket machines, and touch screens), are cleaned regularly. You should notice the use of antiviral cleaning products, and that toilets are well stocked up with soap. Also, trains are checked throughout the day and deep cleaned regularly overnight in depots.
  • Clear safety guidance is provided in highly visible locations. Look out for public health posters within stations and on the train for more information.
  • Extra train carriages are now being provided wherever possible. More than 1,000-weekday services have also been added since mid-February, with more planned in May.
  • There are fewer people handling tickets and cash because contactless payments on platforms and been encouraged.
  • On-board catering has been reduced or removed.
  • Seat reservations are requested by some train operators, to aid social distancing. These include LNER, Avanti West Coast, GWR, and CrossCountry.

All travel restrictions, rules, and guidelines have been put in place to keep passengers and staff safe during each journey. You can be reassured that anyone not following them could end up paying a higher price than originally planned…

COVID Train Travel Fines

A £6,400 fine can be imposed if anyone refuses to wear a face-covering during train travel – unless exempt.

You may be wondering: When will train travel rules and restrictions be relaxed? The answer lies in how much risk people want to live with.

According to UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Van Tam: “Going forward, people may choose to wear a mask – without any fear or stigma – on public transport, like you’ve seen in South East Asia after the Sars outbreak in 2003.”

Hopefully, we have given you enough food for thought to consider travelling by train? Why not take a train ride to your next UK holiday destination, or go one better and book a train holiday…

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UK Train Holidays

For an unforgettable trip, experience an overnight steam train trip adventure. Book a sleeper train journey and save time and money by staying in a cosy cabin. The train will rock you to sleep before you wake somewhere new, to begin your holiday! Overnight train trips in the UK include The Night Riviera from London to Penzance, Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog in Wales, and The Caledonian Sleeper, from London to Scotland.

A train holiday is said to be one of the best ways to experience Scotland. Choose a relaxed and scenic route and you’re sure to roll past a legendary loch and through rugged landscapes. Look out for enchanting castles in the distance! You can enjoy seven days of train travel and visit some of Scotland’s most stunning destinations, such as Fort William, Glen Coe, and Ben Nevis while resting in welcoming hotels. Or you can book a two-night break, with a trip on the famous Jacobite Steam Train included!

Although not technically a UK trip, you can also take the Eurostar Ski Sleeper train from London St Pancras, if you fancy skiing in the French Alps. However, you’ll have to keep your eye on when France reopens its doors to British travellers to experience a ski holiday in France. You can find out by visiting the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice website.

UK Train Trips and Days Out

train travel in the ukFor a luxury train journey step aboard the Northern Belle for the day. The epitome of luxury and elegance, the Northern Belle is a steam train with exquisite decorative carriages and sumptuous cuisine.

Steam hauled journeys include trips along the spectacular 72-mile Settle-Carlisle line, round-trip travel from London to Bournemouth, and can include a trip to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. Trains depart from a number of stations up and down the UK.

If you’re looking for a romantic train journey, a scenic rail route along the Cotswolds Line may be for you. Board platform four, at Oxford Station and depart for Hereford, which sits on the River Wye. Sit back and embrace the charming Cotswolds countryside, on single-track lines and you’ll reach your destination in two and a half hours.

Want something a bit different for you and your family? Opt for a memorable steam train journey. Be whisked away to a bygone era of steam travel, as you listen to the clickety-clack of the train on the track. Nostalgic days out include departures from London to Cambridge, on the Flying Scotsman, and train tours through the Surrey Hills. As the Christmas season chimes, meet Santa on the magical Santa Steam Express. This vintage steam train departs from London Victoria throughout December and is very popular – make sure to book in advance.

uk train holidaysFor more train trip inspiration, travel updates, and information during the pandemic, within the UK and Europe, a useful website to visit is

We hope we’ve provided you with enough guidance, so you can travel with confidence on UK trains.

Wherever you roll during a train holiday. Don’t forget to take Free Spirt UK Travel Insurance, which can offer you a number of benefits.

If you have any concerns about travelling during the Coronavirus pandemic read our COVID travel guide for an anxiety-free holiday and/or learn more about our Coronavirus Cover.

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