AFTER Boris Johnson’s confusing statement on Sunday evening we have already seen chaotic scenes in England as many people attempt to return to work and as a result the trains, which are currently running at a reduced capacity, start to fill up again.

I am horrified at the thought of people simply returning en masse to a public transport system which (especially in England)

is overcrowded and cannot cope at the best of times. As a key worker who relies on the railway to get to and from work I’ve seen no changes to anything on board here in Scotland, and would assume that there have been no changes elsewhere in the UK, and unless the train operators take action we will see a potentially lethal free-for-all.

The current guidance is that where possible we stay two metres apart from others, and on that basis the seating capacity of most trains would be reduced to a handful of passengers per carriage. Clearly that is unsustainable.

The World Health Organisation specifies a one metre social distance, and this would certainly increase capacity somewhat, but it would have to be introduced in conjunction with compulsory face coverings for everyone travelling on trains, including staff who would clearly be not only more at risk of catching the virus but would also then have a significant chance of spreading it to customers and other staff.

They have got away with it so far merely due to the tiny number of people travelling, but this cannot last. There should have been no return to work for anyone until clear guidance had been agreed with the rail unions and a sufficient supply of PPE for rail staff was in place.

Also the guidance on face coverings is simply too vague. Saying you should wear a face covering is not enough. If I am seated on train and an unmasked passenger joins the train and sits next to me, have I to just sit and take it on the chin, to quote Mr Johnson? I am extremely unhappy if that is the case.

The requirement to wear a face covering should be a condition of even entering a railway station even prior to boarding. Perhaps it might fall to the rail unions to take action to protect us as the UK government certainly won’t, and if trains are overcrowded drivers and guards should not be complicit in allowing them to run.

Boris Johnson appears to be making up policy on the hoof, but there was simply no excuse for Sunday evening’s debacle. The content of his message was clearly known internally within the Cabinet since recording and was an open secret among the media. His message created confusion and contained virtually no clarity. The only thing the UK is now alert to is that his bumbling oaf act has gone as far as it can.

I have continued to see trains run to and from England. If people shouldn’t be driving to Scotland then why should they be able to hop on a train in London and hop off in Glasgow? With the new five-stage alert system in place in England, the Scottish Government must start insisting that cross-border services are suspended if the level reaches four or higher. There is absolutely no sense in closing our air borders and implementing a 14-day quarantine for air passengers if the railway can be used without restriction.

The railway is an Achilles’ heel in our efforts to deal with coronavirus and we must face up to the fact that if no action is taken we would most likely see a huge rise in cases of the virus. We must play our part and pressure all the train operating companies to make sure that our trains are safe to use before allowing mass use of them again. Until then we need to stay home if possible and we certainly must avoid using them for recreational purposes until we are all assured that they are safe to travel on, because as it stands they aren’t.

Joan McNiven