Birmingham New Street concourse at night

Essential workers and school children take over railway station announcements

  • From today, for the first time NHS, supermarket staff, teachers and other essential workers will take over station announcements, encouraging people to travel at quieter times, wear a face covering and take other steps to help those who really need to travel
  • Voices of those who need to take the train, including school children, will urge passengers to regularly wash their hands, consider walking or cycling, use eTickets and pay contactless where possible, to help them travel safely
  • Train operators, working with Network Rail, continue to monitor passenger numbers closely as they run some longer trains where possible and improve travel information

Rail travellers will be hearing station announcements from fellow essential worker passengers from today, thanking them for only taking the train if it’s really necessary and for following public health advice.

The new station announcements are ahead of the reopening of non-essential retail businesses in England and the introduction of mandatory face covering rules when travelling by train from Monday. Rail companies want to ensure that an increase in people travelling does not reduce the space on trains for essential workers which is why they are encouraging people to walk or cycle or travel at quieter times where possible.

Guidance from governments for people to socially distance to help protect them and others from coronavirus means that there is room for around 10% to 20% of the usual number of people on trains. To help people travel safely, together with government, rail companies are encouraging people who need to take the train to stagger their journeys by travelling when it is less busy. Stations are also displaying posters reminding passengers to follow the new rules on wearing face coverings.

When travelling, passengers are being asked to: plan ahead by checking before they travel and to use eTickets or contactless cards; consider others by wearing a face covering; and stay safe by washing their hands regularly and using hand sanitiser.

To support the advice, rail companies will be broadcasting station announcements from people who really need to travel by train. Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, who takes the train to and from his constituency as necessary is also making a cameo and has recorded his own announcement for passengers. This includes key workers such as doctors, nurses and care workers, as well as supermarket staff, teachers and school children. Passengers will be hearing announcements like these in stations:

“I'm Zeynab and I’m a call handler at the London Ambulance Service. Please help me save lives by working from home if you can, by wearing a face covering on your journey, and maintaining your distance where possible.”

“Hi, I'm Lottie and I'm 8, and my parents are key workers. To keep all of us safe please wear a face covering and make sure you wash your hands often.”

“Hi, I'm Hannah and I'm a nurse in a care home. Thank you for keeping me and other passengers safe by avoiding busy times, paying contactless wherever you can, and wearing face coverings.”

This is the first time that a programme of announcements made by passengers will be broadcast across stations in England and Scotland, with announcements usually made by station staff or using automated technology.

The announcements support ongoing work by rail companies and their staff, as well as partners such as the British Transport Police, to help keep people safe as they travel during this challenging time. Operators have been working with Network Rail to monitor passenger numbers and are running some longer trains on routes where it is possible to do so. As announced earlier this month, more travel information is being published on journey planners and via the new Alert Me by Messenger service.

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions at the Rail Delivery Group said:

We’re delighted to have frontline workers and school children helping with our announcements. We hope people listen to their advice by only travelling if it’s necessary and, if they do, to travel at quieter times and wear a face covering. This is more important than ever as non-essential retail businesses prepare to open.

Keeping safe at this time is a real team effort, with rail companies, our people and passengers playing their part to help keep themselves and others safe. We thank rail workers for their continued dedication to keeping the country moving and thank passengers for wearing face coverings and planning ahead.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

Putting the voices of our incredible key workers and their families on our railway announcements, for the very first time, underlines just how important it is that we all work together to beat this virus.

People should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible, and I urge those who do need to travel to listen to our new station announcers, and stagger their travel times to avoid crowds or use other forms of transport wherever possible.

While respecting social distancing and maintaining good hand hygiene remain the most important steps we can all take to stay safe, wearing a face covering can also play an important role in helping us to protect each other.

Hannah Sperry, who recorded an announcement and is a care home worker in Glasgow who travels to and from work with ScotRail, said:

Travelling by train during the pandemic has been very unusual, with thankfully very few people around, helping to protect me and make my life easier, particularly after a 12 hour shift. I jumped at the chance to record these announcements, which allows me to ask others to help me and to thank them for their continued support, which has really kept me going over the last few months.

Contact Information

Notes to editors

  1. Advice for people who need to travel: The rail industry is advising people to:
  • Plan ahead: check before you travel. Buy tickets online, on mobile or on Smartcard and avoid travelling at busy times. If travelling on a long-distance service, you are strongly advised to make a reservation beforehand as capacity will be limited and you may otherwise not be able to travel. Please use eTickets and use contactless if you need to.
  • Consider others: people should wear a face covering to prevent spreading the virus. Respect our staff and be considerate to those less able as we all navigate a different way to travel.
  • Stay safe: maintain social distancing where possible and pay contactless where available. Protect yourself by using hand sanitiser and washing your hands frequently.
  1. Station announcement examples: You can download video and audio of the announcements that will be used at stations using this link.