Posted 20th July 2021 | 5 Comments

Cross-border clash over train facemask rules

LNER has come under fire for following the new English pandemic rules on board its trains north of the border, which mean face coverings and social distancing are no longer compulsory.

The changes came into effect yesterday, but there are crucial differences between England, Wales and Scotland, because the devolved governments have not lifted the existing rules.

This has difficult implications for trains crossing borders, but LNER had said that the new English rules would continue to apply on board its trains north of Berwick, which would mean that passengers would only be obliged to wear face coverings when they left the train at a Scottish station.

LNER’s stance has been criticised by Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson, who described it as ‘unacceptable’. He is claiming that Transport Scotland had received reassurances from LNER at the end of last week, when it said messages to its passengers would ‘reflect Scottish law and guidance’.

Transport Scotland said: ‘It is not acceptable that LNER has continued to issue inaccurate advice.’

LNER has responded by indicating that a rethink is possible. It said: 'We are reviewing our approach to social distancing onboard our Anglo-Scot services. The safety of our customers and colleagues remains our top priority and we will provide an update in due course.

'We are continuing to provide an enhanced cleaning programme onboard our trains and at our stations as well as reminding customers to wear a face mask, unless exempt.'

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Gordon Black, Edmons, USA

    It seems that some of the correspondents who responded to this article (who seem to all live in England) are not aware of how things work under the powers of the parliaments in Scotland and Wales. Both Wales and Scotland have the legislative authority over health-care, including responses to the covid pandemic. As such, passengers on-board trains arriving in Scotland or Wales from England must comply with the applicable laws in each of those countries. Period. Does not matter that LNER is a train operating company funded by the UK government, if its trains travel into Scotland, those rules set by the parliament in Scotland apply. It's not really complicated. Oh, and Berwick Upon Tweed is actually in England. One assumes that on a south-bound LNER train from, say Inverness, passengers would be free to remove their masks after crossing into England, since the law applying by the ever-wise government of Boris Johnson would apply in England. Hope that helps clarify things - and really, wearing a mask at a time of increasing infection due to the Delta variant is probably the sensible thing to do. Let's not politicize public health issues.

  • Garth, Dunkeld

    In this case, when in Scotland do as the Scottish government has legislated.

    The rules are specific: "You must wear a face covering when using public transport to prevent the transmission of the virus unless exempt."

    LNER has published the following, under the heading "What are the rules for Scotland?"

    "Face coverings must be worn onboard our trains and in stations, unless exempt."

    [Edited to comply with Guideline 1.]

  • Gordon S Valentine, Stamford

    LNER is run and controlled by the main UK government. It should be 100% up to them, which rules they go by! If the SNP does not like it, just turn all trains back at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

  • Peter C, Crawley

    So what rules do they apply on trains heading south? Can people remove their masks as soon as they board the train or do they have to wear them to Berwick (or London)?

  • Melvyn , Canvey Island Essex

    Well the orders from London comes from the National Government and not a local council who’s acting above its pay grade !