You should only travel for work if it is essential, or for other legally permitted reasons.
If you do need to travel, there are a number of steps you can take to help keep you, your fellow passengers and our colleagues safe.
Wear a face covering - now more than ever it is crucial that you wear a face covering on our trains and at our stations (unless you are exempt) or you could get a fine from the British Transport Police. Fines start at £200 for a first offence (£100 if paid within 14 days). The fine doubles for each subsequent offence with no discount, up to a maximum of £6,400.
You should put on your face covering before you enter the station and keep it on until you leave the station at your destination.
Children under 11, and people with a disability, illness or condition that means they cannot wear a face covering are exempt. For more information about exemptions click here.
Travel outside of busy periods - you should still try to travel at quieter times. To better plan your journey we have created a guide to our busiest trains. Our guide shows when major stations tend to get busy on weekdays, and the crowding levels during our busiest times. If your station isn’t listed, then the level of crowding is likely to be low.
Wash your hands regularly - please wash your hands before and after you travel, you may also want to carry your own personal hand sanitiser.
Download the NHS COVID-19 App - you can download the NHS COVID-19 App here.
Plan ahead - check your journey in advance – you can find more information on our amended timetable here.
Buy your ticket online - buying your ticket online will make your journey through our station seamless and contact-free. Make the switch to our Touch smartcard, it’s free and you don’t need to queue to get your tickets. Find out more about Touch Smartcards here.
If you do need to buy your ticket at our stations, use contactless - cash is now accepted at our ticket offices and most ticket machines, but please use a payment card or contactless payment wherever possible.
Allow other passengers off before you board - stand well back and allow your fellow passengers off the train before you board, giving them plenty of room.
Be considerate of fellow passengers - when finding a seat consider your passengers and respect social distancing. Try and leave at least two rows free between yourself and other passengers when finding a seat. Where possible, travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them.
Be prepared to queue - we may need to introduce queuing at our busier stations to ensure social distancing, which means your journey may take longer.
Travelling outside of the SWR network - if your journey will see you travel to a different country within the UK, make sure you check the specific guidance for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Anyone travelling with us must wear a face covering on our trains and at our stations unless they have an exemption. You should put on your face covering before you enter the station and keep it on until you leave the station at your destination.
If you do not, you could be fined by the British Transport Police. This fine starts at £200 for first offences, doubling after each offence up to a maximum of £6,400.
This is part of efforts across public transport to minimise the spread of coronavirus where social distancing becomes more difficult. You can find out what's considered a face covering in the frequently asked questions below, or find out more about travelling on our Coronavirus information page.
What is a face covering?
The Government’s instructions state that a face covering is a cloth that should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably. It can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head.
Where does this apply - just on trains or in stations too?
Unless exempt, customers must wear face coverings from when they enter a station all the way through their journey, including exiting the station at the other end. If people are then moving onto the bus, tram or tube, they should avoid taking off their face covering while they interchange to avoid touching their face or mouth unnecessarily.
How long will these rules be in place?
We will work with the government to regularly review the need for face coverings to be mandatory.
What do I do with my face covering when I am finished with it?
We encourage passengers to use reusable face coverings where possible as these are better for the environment. If you have a disposable face covering then please take it home to dispose of it or put it in the normal bins available on stations at the end of your journey.
What do rail staff do to make sure people wear face coverings on trains and on stations?
Rail staff engage and educate customers about the mandatory use of face coverings when they travel by train and encourage people to wear them. The vast majority of people do the right thing and help protect others by bringing and wearing a face covering while in stations and on trains. Unless they have a good reason, those that don’t wear a face covering could receive a fine from the British Transport Police. This fine starts at £200 for first offences, doubling after each offence up to a maximum of £6,400.
Why are people allowed on my train without face coverings?
Some people may not be able to wear a face covering due to medical conditions which may not always be apparent. Please do not confront other passengers. Anyone that isn’t exempt from wearing a face covering can get a fine from the police or Transport for London enforcement officers up to a maximum of £6,400.
Why don't all your rail staff wear face coverings?
There are some instances when face coverings are not expected to be worn by rail employees such as if they are exempt for medical reasons, in safety critical roles, when communicating to hearing impaired passengers, in train cabs when they’re on their own, when behind glass or Perspex barriers such as in a booking office or information points where social distancing can be achieved.
How much could people be fined?
You could be fined £200 on the first offence, or £100 if you pay the fine within 14 days. Following offences will have no discount, and will double after each offence, up to a maximum of £6,400.
What’s the legal basis for this? Is it being done as a change to the National Rail Conditions of Travel (NRCoT) or the railway bye laws?
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020.
What should I do if I’m sitting in a carriage with someone who isn’t wearing a face covering?
We are confident that the vast majority of people are going to want to do the right thing and help protect others by bringing and wearing a face covering while in stations and on trains. Please also be aware that some passengers may not be able to wear as mask due to medical issues. Regardless of whether someone is wearing a mask, people should keep their distance – at least two metres, if possible.
Will you be supplying face coverings for customers?
We’re encouraging our customers to bring their own face coverings, and have posted on social media how they can make their own if they are unable to purchase one. Where a customer with a valid ticket has genuinely forgotten their face covering we will try and have some available at some of our stations.
What about a long-distance service where people are on the train for hours, will this apply there?
Yes. For example, the wearing of face coverings is already mandatory on Eurostar trains.
Do children require face coverings?
Children under 11 are not required to wear face coverings.
Are you doing this just to reduce the need for social distancing?
No. We are doing this to further reduce the risk of infection. Used properly, face coverings can help prevent the spread of the disease. Social distancing and good hand hygiene are still very important.
Can I remove my face covering to eat or drink?
Yes. You can temporarily remove your face covering whilst eating, drinking or taking medication whilst maintaining social distancing. You are expected to replace your face covering to continue your journey. We kindly ask that you keep the removal of your face covering, when it comes to eating, drinking or taking medication, to a minimum especially on short journeys.
What if I can’t wear a face covering for medical reasons or due to a disability?
You can still use public transport. We want people to be able to travel with dignity and our staff will act considerately towards those who cannot wear a mask due to their disability.
Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a good reason not to. This includes:
if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
if you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
if you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering
if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example to check your railcard
The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to:
a child under the age of 11
passengers in an allocated cabin, berth or other similar accommodation, when they are alone or with members of their household or support bubble
passengers who remain in their private vehicle while on board public transport, for example on a car ferry
an employee of the transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
any other person providing services to the transport operator, under arrangements made with the transport operator, who is providing those services
a constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
an emergency responder such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
an official, for example a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties
I’m Deaf/deaf or living with hearing loss and I need to lip read. Do I need to use a face covering? Can staff remove their face coverings?
If you need to remove your face covering or ask a member of staff to remove theirs to communicate, please remember to give staff two metres space to ensure that social distancing can be adhered to. If staff are behind screens and light is reflecting on the screen, please ask if they could write down any information for you or move to enable you to lip read. There is a more detailed FAQs on National Rail’s Assisted Travel FAQs page.
If you are reliant on lip reading – for example with companions or carers – for your journey, you will not be expected to wear a covering when communicating. If you can, please wear a face covering when not communicating for your and other people’s safety.
I have a mental health condition that means I cannot wear a face covering. Will staff be made aware that I am exempt?
Yes. We will brief staff to ensure that they are considerate and discrete when engaging customers about wearing a face covering.