Coronavirus advice

It is a difficult time for the industries that we work with, and for those that work in them. This page contains our current coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for the railway industry, and a summary of our own working arrangements at the present time.

Our guidance should be read in the light of the wider guidance from Government and Public Health England, in particular, these relevant links on:

Advice for the railway industry

Medical fitness and competence assessments for train drivers and other safety critical staff

Updated 6 July 2020

ORR recognises that recent public health advice from the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, may restrict the industry’s ability to meet its safety management arrangements to monitor at normal intervals the competence and fitness of employees who carry out safety-critical work. This may arise from, for example, the need to adhere to advice on restricting face-to-face contact, or from self-isolation causing a reduction in the availability of staff who would normally carry out this monitoring.

ORR has considered the impact of this advice for the railway where a person has duties under Part 4 of the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations (ROGS) in relation to employees carrying out safety critical tasks and has produced this guidance in response.

Specific separate guidance is included below for employers of those train drivers who also come under the Train Driving Licence and Certificate Regulations 2010.

Our guide to who has the duties to manage safety critical work is available.

Our guide to train driver licensing and certification requirements is also available.

Our view is the duty to have suitable and sufficient arrangements to monitor competence and fitness remains in place during the COVID-19 outbreak and the assessments for monitoring should be carried out where it is practical to do so. However, ORR also recognises the overall benefits to society of continuing to transport freight and key workers safely throughout these unprecedented circumstances.

While the Covid-19 restrictions are in force, and in accordance with advice issued by Public Health England regarding social distancing, we recognise that face-to-face medical examinations can only be carried out in accordance with those restrictions and advice. Therefore face-to-face medical examinations for safety critical workers should only be carried out where it is absolutely necessary to see the worker face-to-face and they can be performed safely.

Where medical examinations and certification remains a necessity, and cannot be delayed, it may be possible to introduce an adjusted process that avoids face-to-face consultation but permits an extension to medical certification to enable staff to continue in their role. This would require an assessment of the risks associated with that approach.

If a reduction in business activity means that not all safety critical workers are needed for normal operations, then consideration should be given to ensuring that rostering and monitoring arrangements prioritise those who remain required to carry out safety critical activities.

Where an employer is using an adjusted process for monitoring of competence and fitness under ROGS the employer should take a risk-based approach and:

  • consider the risks from the individual continuing their role beyond the normal medical/competence review process for a limited period;
  • carry out an assessment of the likely effectiveness of any steps taken to minimise any increase in risk, including:
    • self-declaration by the individual of any changes in their fitness and suitability;
    • any other remote medical/competence assessment methods (questionnaires, telephone interviews etc) which can reasonably be carried out to minimise the potential reduction in risk control necessitated by the public health advice;
    • likely duration of any extension, and arrangements for carrying out the usual medical/ competence monitoring as soon as reasonably practicable; and
    • conditions and arrangements for any further extension, should this appear necessary.
  • Consider the risks likely to arise from the individual being unable to continue their work, including;
    • the criticality of the role in terms of potential impact on safety and the provision of train services; and
    • the availability of other suitable competent and fit staff.

Employers should ensure that any changes to their arrangements for ensuring the medical fitness of staff carrying out safety critical work during the outbreak are informed by advice from competent medical professionals, and include a mechanism for review.

We encourage the industry, where practical, to take a consistent approach to managing the delivery and validity of medical assessments. Mainline operators are encouraged to take into account the processes for safety critical workers developed by the Rail Delivery Group for use during this time. RSSB has produced guidance on this.

Employers should consider the arrangements for monitoring safety critical workers who are on enhanced monitoring plans, for example as post-incident mitigation, to maintain an appropriate level of support and assurance.

We expect employers to record the information from any such process and the resulting decision, as is required for any risk assessment.

When employers recruit persons into roles that carry out safety critical work during the virus' outbreak, a person should not be employed to undertake safety critical tasks for the first time until such time as a medical examination is able to be carried out.

We may ask employers to provide evidence of any adjusted monitoring process. ORR inspectors may request documentary evidence of the interim arrangements employers put in place.

Additional guidance for mainline operators relating to licensed train drivers only

Updated 6 July 2020

In addition to the arrangements described above, licensed train drivers are subject to specific requirements concerning the periodicity of medical and competence assessments in order to maintain the validity of their documentation. Under the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, EU legislation continues to apply in the UK until 31 December 2020. The EU has passed a regulation affecting the Directive 2007/59 on the certification of train drivers, and this regulation applies directly in UK. This regulation automatically extends any periodic checks expiring between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020 to maintain licence and certificate validity by 6 months. These periodic checks include medical examinations and professional knowledge examinations relating to vehicles and infrastructure. Although the regulation provides for an automatic extension to periodic checks, employers of train drivers should be planning how to deal with the backlog of periodic checks caused by the pandemic so that drivers are able to maintain validity of the licence and certificate within the requirements of the regulations. The EU regulation also does not obviate the need for the competence and fitness of train drivers to continue to be managed in accordance with Part 4 of ROGS. Our guidance on this page for all safety critical staff continues to apply to train drivers. RSSB has produced guidance on this.

Remote medical assessments may be used to support decision making about extending the frequency of periodic medical examinations for individual licensed train drivers.  The purpose of such assessments is for the medical professional to confirm that, within the limitations of remote medical assessment, the medical requirements of Schedule 1 of TDCLR are likely to continue to be met until the end of the permitted extension. Remote assessment cannot replicate all aspects of a Schedule 1 medical so cannot be used to extend validity of a driver’s medical fitness beyond that time limited period nor as the basis for issuing a new licence.

Employers should follow clinical guidance issued by Public Health England on conducting medical examinations to ensure the safety of both the clinician performing the medical examination and the train driver undergoing the examination.

Engineering standards requirements for periodic inspection and maintenance

ORR recognises that recent public health advice from the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, may restrict the industry’s ability to meet their normal inspection and maintenance requirements contained in their engineering standards. This may arise from, for example, the need to adhere to advice on restricting face-to-face contact, or from self-isolation causing a reduction in the availability of staff who would normally carry out this monitoring.

If transport bodies need to move away from normal periodicity for inspection and maintenance due to lack of staff then a competent person will need to carry out a risk assessment and record their findings.

The following principles should be applied:

  1. Apply a risk-based approach to reviewing and conducting inspection and maintenance activities.
  2. Prioritise inspection and reactive maintenance activities most critical to maintaining safe operation of the railway and the safety of passengers, public and workforce.
  3. Record work that hasn’t been done, any mitigation, and when a further review is required.
  4. Any proposed changes to inspection or maintenance activities should be validated by another appropriate competent person in line with the organisation’s safety management system.
  5. Record all variations to standards.
  6. Keep all changes under review, to take account of changing railway operating characteristics, asset condition, and resource availability.

Practical guidance for operators on implementing COVID-19 public health advice on trains, trams and stations

Updated 6 July 2020

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) continues to work closely with the rail sector and its trades unions on practical guidance for on-train and station activities to minimise the health risks to employees and passengers from COVID-19, supporting the public health advice from the English and Scottish Governments and the Welsh Assembly in response to the pandemic and changes in the associated travel restrictions.

We expect operators to take every opportunity in their communication with passengers, the public and other stakeholders to encourage adherence to current public health advice. This advice may change frequently, and further variations to restrictions introduced or amended/removed, so operators should ensure information is kept up to date. Operators should also communicate information about busy train times and stations.

Operators should take the following measures where practicable. We recognise that some specific steps may be more challenging in certain operating environments, but it is vital that all operators do their utmost to support the key principles of cleanliness and social distancing.

Governmental social distancing policy

In England, from 4 July 2020, you should keep 2m apart where possible, but if you cannot, then reduce the risk by maintaining a 1 metre distance where possible, and take suitable mitigations.  Operators should review their risk assessment and the controls they have put in place, examples are set out below and in the Department of Transport guidance for operators.

In Scotland and Wales the 2m rules on social distancing remain.

Our advice should be read alongside advice and guidance provided by UK Government and Devolved Administrations, Public Health authorities and the Health and Safety Executive. On the mainline railway, this guidance is supplemented by agreed safety principles established by the Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum, which the mainline railway industry should apply.

On trains

  • Practice and facilitate social distancing, encouraging passengers and employees to maintain social distance where possible. Approaches to this should take into account that, if a train is crowded, passengers may become unsettled by regular announcements about social distancing.
  • Drivers should be alone in the cab. Where there is a recognised requirement for more than one person to be in a cab to undertake an activity, such as driver assessment, a task-based risk assessment should be implemented.
  • Where social distancing can be achieved, on-train revenue protection and catering facilities may take place.
  • Ensure regular cleaning - with your usual cleaning products - of surfaces that employees and passengers are likely to touch. Pay particular attention to driving cab controls, door controls, grab handles and toilet door handles.
  • Passengers exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 on board should be isolated in a carriage, or else placed at least 2m away from other passengers, as soon as can be achieved. Assistance should be provided for passengers with symptoms to alight the train if necessary. In this situation assisting employees should thoroughly wash/sanitise their hands as soon as possible. There is currently no requirement to self-isolate if you have been in proximity with someone showing coronavirus symptoms in the workplace and have been following social distancing measures. The coach should be cleaned before re-entering passenger carrying service.

At stations and on platforms

  • Train operators should maintain an appropriate level of staffing to ensure suitable and sufficient levels of security and control at stations.
  • Rostering should consider the advice to establish recurring ‘contained teams’ of people to reduce wider employee interaction.
  • Remind passengers about Government guidance on travel restrictions, social distancing and wearing face coverings on trains (remembering that the advice may not always be the same in every part of Great Britain), by way of visual and audible messages.
  • Station operators should put in place arrangements to manage queues and congestion. This should include identifying areas where there is an increased risk of crowding or congestion and identifying mitigation measures to reduce the likelihood, such as signage and communication, and physical measures to guide passenger flows.
  • Display information to encourage passengers, unless in family/household groups, to maintain social distancing. Graphics (such as posters or floor markings) may help to illustrate spacing on trains.
  • Discourage cash payments at booking offices and retail outlets. If employees must handle cash, hands should be washed or sanitised immediately afterwards.
  • Waiting rooms can be open where social distancing guidelines can be met, with additional controls informed by risk assessment.
  • Operators should maintain customer assistance arrangements. Passengers should be encouraged to contact the relevant train operating company as soon as possible to discuss their requirements. However, pre-booking assistance is still not required.

Face coverings on stations and trains

Face coverings and masks:

  • Face coverings and masks available for assurance purposes are not mandatory PPE and therefore do not fall under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. Face coverings and masks when worn properly can provide a physical barrier against transmission to others and do not prevent the inhalation of the virus. This approach is being adopted outside of a medical environment, including by the emergency services when working in close proximity such as working within the same vehicle.
  • The British Standards Institution (BSI) have created a guide to masks and face coverings for use in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic to aid procurement.
  • To promote a consistent approach, whilst at work, employees should be discouraged from wearing items not assessed and made available to them by their employer such as separately purchased or homemade face coverings, masks or visors.


  • Protective masks classed as respirators are designed to protect the wearer from the inhalation of airborne contaminants. Tight fitting disposable respirators (FFP2 and FFP3) are designed to filter out and prevent inhalation of solid and liquid particulates such as hazardous dusts. The Government are currently reserving face fit testing for health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust and other particulate hazards.
  • It is expected that FFP respirators will only be used in a railway setting where:
    • A task specific COSHH risk assessment shows that they are required as PPE to minimise worker exposure to high hazard dust or fumes in line with existing guidance and industry practices (for example silica dust, welding fume), or
    • Following Government guidance on first responders, they may be included within first-aid kits for the initial response to medical emergencies.
  • HSE guidance on using PPE at work.

Risk assessment and implementation

  • The hierarchy of risk control should continue to be followed, with priority given to collective protection by reviewing and adjusting work practices in order to avoid the need for close proximity interaction before relying on individual protection. For example, where control measures such as clear acrylic screens have been erected, no further assurance would be delivered from a face covering other than to promote and encourage wearing by passengers.
  • The best defence against the spread of COVID-19 continues to be the isolation of those exhibiting symptoms, social distancing and enhanced hand hygiene. The safe use of face coverings should be supported as an additional precautionary measure to protect others working in close proximity. Evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect the user, however if they are infected but not showing symptoms, it may provide protection and mutual assurance for others when unable to maintain social distancing.
  • Task based risk assessments should be conducted to identify roles where face coverings should be considered and the option of wearing them given to employees, e.g. for employees where social distancing rules cannot be observed. (Based on Public Health authorities and European Centre for Disease Control guidance to on infection transmission risk).
  • The provision of face coverings does not remove the need to maintain social distancing and every effort should be made to reinforce this message to reduce the risk of a face covering giving the wearer a false sense of security. Operators should develop and communicate a clear policy for face coverings, enabling all employees to understand what is available and why.
  • Any face covering offered to employees should be risk assessed to ensure that the item does not import further risk and is practical for the task being undertaken. For example, ensuring that face coverings do not impede communication with passengers who may need to lip read, and that visors do not introduce a risk where visual acuity is critical.
  • Clear processes should be in place regarding all face coverings including:
    • instructions as to its safe use (putting on and taking off);
    • how employees are to safely store and transport it;
    • safe disposal of the used/contaminated item OR instructions on the cleaning/laundering of the item; and
    • when to change the item.
  • Consider the medium to long term procurement of the face coverings identified in the task based risk assessment. Have prepared plans in place should the identified items be no longer attainable considering the guidance on standards by the BSI.
  • Awareness of the current difference in government advice regarding face coverings within England, Scotland, and Wales needs to be recognised. However, isolating at home if symptomatic, practicing good hygiene methods, having a thorough cleaning regime and maintaining a social distance from people remain the primary control measures.

Supporting employees

  • All employees should be reminded to wash their hands frequently, ideally with soap and water or alternatively using a hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol or equivalent alternatives.

We advise operators to keep the above measures in place until the Government instructs that COVID-19 controls can be relaxed further.

In conclusion our guidance is that in order to provide reassurance and reduce risk of transmission to a colleague that a visor, re-usable mask/covering or Type I and Type II surgical masks may be suitable. Furthermore, following a specific task based Risk Assessment FFP1 respirators could also be considered appropriate although they offer no material advantage to re-usable/surgical masks unless the wearer is clean shaven and the mask is face fitted. Employers/operators should be confident that they are not accessing supply which could be used as part of PPE by healthcare and other workers. These supplies must continue to be reserved for health and care workers and other responders.

RIDDOR reporting and COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus)

General information on reporting RIDDOR incidents and occupational diseases is available on our website. Specific information about RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19 is available from the Health and Safety Executive.

Advice for rail passengers

  1. The government has advised to only use public transport if you have no other options - and to try travelling off peak. Similar advice has been given by Governments in Scotland and Wales.
  2. If your journey is essential and you need to go by train, please avoid rush hour if feasible, and check your journey before you set out as train services have been reduced and may be subject to change:
  3. Try to keep 2m (6feet) away from staff and other passengers. While using public transport in England and Scotland you must wear a face covering. Children under five and people with certain medical conditions are exempt.
  4. Buy tickets before travelling at ticket offices or purchase from ticket machines where possible.
  5. Payment by contactless card is encouraged in all circumstances.
  6. Catering on trains has been ceased or significantly reduced – buy any food or drinks you require before travel;
  7. If you require assistance to travel you are not required to book ahead but are recommended to contact your train operator before travel to discuss your journey. Train operators are contacting anyone with an existing booking to discuss how they can help with your journey.
  8. Train operators are now accepting tickets for each other's services for necessary journeys. If your essential journey is delayed or cancelled, you can now use any operator's service to reach your destination via any reasonable route.
  9. You can claim a fee-free refund* on all Advance tickets purchased before 7am on the 23rd of March. Check with your train operator or ticket retailer for further details and how to claim.
  10. You can receive a refund* on your season ticket but the administrative fee and refund calculation may remain unchanged. Season ticket refund calculations will be backdated to 17 March or the latest travel date, as long as passengers submit their claim within 56 days of 17 March. To see how much you could get back check the Season Ticket Refund Calculator. You can also get a refund for weekly or monthly season tickets which have recently expired. Check with your train operator or ticket retailer for further details and how to claim.
  11. It is no longer necessary to visit a ticket office to get a refund. Systems are now in place to claim refunds remotely. Check your train operator website.
  12. All companies are processing a high volume of refund claims at this time and it may take longer than usual for responses. This applies to ticket refunds, claims for delay compensation and complaints.

*If you are travelling with an open access operator or a concession operator such as Eurostar, Heathrow Express, Transport for London or Merseyrail - please check their websites for specific details. Hull Trains and Grand Central Trains have now suspended all train services but passengers can still request refunds via their websites.

We will update this page if travel information or advice changes. For further UK transport and travel advice please visit GOV.UK guidance.

ORR's approach to the enforcement of competition law in response to COVID-19

14 April 2020

It is ORR’s role to enforce competition law in the railways sector. Fair competition typically benefits passengers and rail users by creating rivalry between businesses to offer lower prices, better service and increase innovation. ORR nonetheless recognises that in its approach to enforcing competition in this sector must take into account the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The railway is vital to ensure that key workers can get to where they are needed most, and supply chains for essential goods can continue to function.

For this reason, ORR endorses the CMA’s guidance on its ‘Approach to business cooperation in response to COVID-19’.

Additionally, and specifically for the railway sector we also commit not to take enforcement action against any cooperation between businesses, which might otherwise have raised competition concerns, which is necessary and appropriate to achieve the primary objective of:

  • Ensuring the continuity of delivery of essential products to consumers; and/or
  • Maintaining effective passenger services for the transport of key workers.

We emphasise, however, in line with the CMA guidance, that we are resolved to take firm action against any behaviour which seeks to: exploit the crisis for commercial gain; engage or embed any longer term anti-competitive arrangements; or, otherwise to use the pandemic as cover for anti-competitive activity.

Any queries about this guidance should be directed to Tom Cole, Head of Competition:

ORR working arrangements

To protect our staff and to help reduce the spread of the virus, most of our staff are now working remotely, in line with government advice.

This will not affect our ability to work effectively, as ORR is well set up to do most of our work online and via mobile.

In practical terms it does mean we will communicate more frequently by email and will conduct meetings by phone and video, instead of face-to-face.

We do not expect there to be any large-scale disruption to our core processes, and our health and safety teams will continue to carry out their role.

We recognise that there will be considerable pressures on those within the rail and road industries during this period. We want to assure stakeholders that we will be as pragmatic as possible in how we work, given the challenges faced. We will provide support and advice wherever we can.

Further information