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LNER backtracks on ‘English guidance’ for distancing rules while trains are in Scotland

An LNER train in England.
An LNER train in England.

Train operator LNER has gone back on its decision to have its services “operate under English guidance” while in Scotland with regards to social distancing, following criticism by the SNP.

Last week, the train company contacted customers to let them know that social distancing would not be required on board its trains in England from July 19, following an easing of England’s coronavirus restrictions.

But LNER also said it had “reached an agreement with Transport Scotland” so that passengers going north of the border from England wouldn’t necessarily be socially distanced, even in Scotland, where it is still a requirement.

‘Follow the law in Scotland’

Scottish Government climate change
Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport

The move prompted fury from the SNP, with Michael Matheson MSP, the Scottish Government’s transport secretary, branding it “unacceptable”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

When asked about the issue, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged cross-border train services “operating in Scotland to follow the law in Scotland”.

But now, after discussions between Transport Scotland and LNER, the operator has made “adjustments” to its services while they’re in Scotland.

A spokesman for LNER said: “We have made adjustments to our approach to support physical distancing on board LNER services in Scotland.

“Our reservation system spaces customers through our trains and we are also informing customers of which are our busier services, and helping customers should they wish to change their seats or travel plans.

“Our on-board colleagues will make announcements on trains advising of social distancing rules in Scotland, and assisting them to move seats if they need or prefer.

“We are strongly recommending customers make a seat reservation for free by going to or using the LNER app if a reservation is not already included as part of the ticket, and reminding customers that they must wear a face covering in Scotland unless exempt.”

Transport Scotland welcomes move

A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: “We welcome LNER’s recognition of the different rules in Scotland and that they will follow these on their services north of the border.

“Our guidance remains the same — passengers should maintain at least one metre physical distancing and wear masks while using rail services in Scotland, including in stations.”

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