LNER sparked a row yesterday after telling passengers they’d be following “English rules” in services operating through Scotland – meaning customers would not be guaranteed a socially distanced seat.

It came as England scrapped its social distancing measures alongside most Covid-19 restrictions on so-called “Freedom Day”, despite quickly rising cases.

Scotland moved to level 0 yesterday and members of the public are still advised to remain at least one metre away from people not within their household in order to limit the spread of the virus.

READ MORE: Transport Scotland in urgent talks with LNER over 'unacceptable' distancing move

Transport Scotland said it had received assurances from LNER, which runs between Inverness and London King’s Cross, last week that it would “respect Scottish Government law and guidance”, and declared the scrapping of social distancing advice to be “unacceptable”.

The rail firm reassured passengers that its booking system meant services would not become overcrowded, and later said it would be reviewing its approach to social distancing on cross-Border trains.

A number of other train companies also travel across the Border, including CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast and the Transpennine Express. Masks are required by law (unless a person has an exemption) on trains in Scotland, while all firms are encouraging passengers to continue wearing face coverings in England where they are no longer a legal requirement.

The National reached out to each company to find out how social distancing will work on their cross-Border trains following July 19.


A spokesperson said: “In England, social distancing restrictions are no longer in place on board our services, which is in line with government guidelines. Scotland still has a social distancing rule of 1m in place. However, there is acknowledgement that on some crowded services 1m physical distancing may prove difficult.

“We continue to have a range of measures in place including information about quieter services and enhanced cleaning regimes to ensure our customers have a comfortable travel experience. Face coverings also remain mandatory in Scotland for the time being and we make frequent announcements to inform our customers.”

TransPennine Express

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express told us: “In line with national Rail Delivery Group guidance, we are asking customers to wear a mask in crowded spaces on trains and on stations out of respect to others. We have specific advice for those travelling to, from and within Scotland. All customer advice can be found on our website - https://www.tpexpress.co.uk/travelling-with-us/travel-with-confidence.”

On the company’s website they advertise the NHS Test and Protect contact tracing app and link to the Scottish Government’s rules on mask wearing.

However, the website also states: “The Government’s guidance on social distancing from Monday 19th July has changed, which may mean that during busy times you may be seated next to another Passenger.

“Please carry anti-viral hand sanitiser gel and always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and hot water before and after travel.”

Avanti West Coast

A spokesperson did not comment, but The National understands that Avanti West Coast is asking customers to continue wearing face coverings despite English rule changes, and on arrival in Carlisle passengers will be advised of rules in Scotland and given the option to move seats to comply with social distancing guidance where possible.

Caledonian Sleeper

On the Caledonian Sleeper, operated by Serco, passengers are advised to stay in their room to minimise close contacts.

Their website adds: “We ask that guests should keep their distance from other guests and our Guest Experience Team – at least two metres, if possible.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents a number of train companies which travel over the Border, said: “Train companies have improved information about busier and quieter times so that people can plan their journeys and continue to travel with confidence. Train travel is low risk as carriages are well ventilated with air regularly refreshed and we will be continuing with extra cleaning.

"We still expect people to wear face coverings in crowded spaces, out of respect for others, when travelling in England and we have also worked closely with devolved transport authorities to ensure that when passengers cross borders they have clear information about what is expected.”