Coronavirus advice

Body
Components

This page contains our coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for the railway industry and passengers.

This page is being reviewed and will be updated in accordance with the current guidance and advice from governments. 

Our guidance should be read in the light of the latest guidance from Government and Public Health England which may be subject to change at short notice. The following links are particularly relevant:

Advice for the railway industry

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

Updated 17 August 2021

The UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments have issued advice on easing coronavirus (COVID-19) measures. Please continue to follow the relevant government advice and current guidance in relation to COVID-19.

The Office of Rail and Road continues to consider the impact of government advice and guidance 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. We have produced the following guidance in response. (Specific COVID-19 guidance is available for employers of those train drivers who also come under the Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010). 

Employers are encouraged to consider the possible effects on services should lockdown restrictions be reintroduced, or from staff self-isolation.

The Office of Rail and Road's guide to who has the duties to manage safety critical work is available.

Fitness – medical assessments

The duty to have suitable and sufficient arrangements to monitor fitness remains in place during the COVID-19 pandemic and, as part of this, employers of safety critical workers should ensure that necessary medical assessments of safety critical workers are carried out. These will in most circumstances be face-to-face, following clinical guidance issued by a relevant professional or public health body on conducting medical examinations during the pandemic, to ensure the safety of both the clinician performing the medical examination and the safety critical worker undergoing the examination.   

Face-to-face consultations are the normal approach for all full initial assessments and for periodic assessments of fitness, since the specific criteria in standards must be measured. Any other consultation methods should be limited to circumstances where there is no requirement in the standard, or medical need, to carry out the consultation face-to-face (for example to review long term sickness or to conduct a follow up appointment after a previous declaration of temporary unfitness). 

Competence assessment and monitoring

Some COVID-19 precautions may mean that rail organisations need to adjust some parts of their arrangements for assessing and monitoring the continuing competence of their staff, taking into account ORR’s “Practical guidance for operators on implementing COVID-19 public health advice on trains, trams, and stations”. 

Where an employer uses an adjusted process for assessing or monitoring competence, they should take a risk-based approach and:

  • consider the risks from the individual continuing their safety critical role beyond the normal competence review process for a limited period;
  • consider the likely effectiveness of any steps taken to minimise any increase in risk, including:
    • any remote competence assessment methods which can reasonably be carried out to minimise the potential reduction in risk control necessitated by the public health advice. Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) have produced guidance on how operators can make better use of remote learning during and after Covid-19 and this is the link to the RSSB resources – Transitioning driver and conductor training to remote delivery (T1238);
    • the likely duration of any extension, and arrangements for carrying out the usual competence monitoring as soon as reasonably practicable; and
    • the 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 suitably competent and fit staff.

Additional guidance for mainline operators relating to licensed train drivers only Collapse accordion Open accordion

Updated 12 August 2021

In addition to the arrangements described above, licensed train drivers are subject to specific requirements for periodic medical and competence assessments in order to maintain the validity of their documentation, as set out in the Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010 (TDLCR). ORR is not able to issue any derogations from the legal requirements in TDLCR, nor can we extend the deadlines set for periodic medicals.

Periodic medicals required by TDLCR, can only be completed in line with Schedule 1 by a face-to-face clinical assessment, due to the requirement for specific medical tests to be undertaken which cannot be provided remotely. These should be provided in a coronavirus (COVID-19) safe environment to protect the clinician and the driver.

Employers should be aware that occupational health providers remain working in a COVID-19 safe way. This may mean that there is a reduced availability of appointments. Therefore, please ensure you plan well ahead of the due date for a driver’s medical examination.

An ORR guide to train driver licensing and certification requirements is available.

In May 2020, EU regulation 2020/698 was passed and applied to the UK. It automatically extended the validity of licences expiring between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020 by six months and extended the time limits for completing periodic checks. A further Commission Decision (EU 2020/1237) extended the August deadline until 31 December 2020.

In effect, any periodic checks that fell due between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 could be extended by six months. The following examples explained the effect of these changes:

  • Driving licence belonging to driver A due to expire on 30 April 2020 - expiry date extended to 30 October 2020;
  • Periodic medical of driver B due on 30 May 2020 – due date extended to 30 November 2020;
  • Periodic medical of driver C due on 31 October 2020 – due date extended to 30 April 2021;
  • Periodic medical for driver D due 31 December 2020 – due date extended to 30 June 2021. 

The final extension (to 30 June 2021) has now passed.

Engineering standards requirements for periodic inspection and maintenance Collapse accordion Open accordion

Updated 30 July 2021

ORR recognises that recent public health advice from the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments in response to coronavirus (COVID-19), 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 has not 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 Collapse accordion Open accordion

Updated 19 July 2021

We have published guidance that sets out key principles which should be followed when considering the easing of COVID-19 related risk controls, as the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments change guidelines and legislation mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission. It is principally aimed at the assessment of COVID-19 risks in the workplace, for employees and contractors, while COVID-19 is still defined as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Governments. It is not intended to be used for the management of risks and controls relevant to passengers in relation to transmission of COVID-19, but dutyholders should take account of the risk of transmission from passengers to employees and contractors. 

The guidance has been endorsed by the Railway Industry Coronavirus Forum (RICF), whose members include the General Secretaries of ASLEF, RMT, TSSA and Unite as well as the Rail Delivery Group, Network Rail, train operating companies and their owning groups. It also has support from Transport for London (TfL) and the Light Rail Safety Standards Board (LRSSB).

RIDDOR reporting and COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Collapse accordion Open accordion

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.

Guidance for heritage railways Collapse accordion Open accordion

We've produced a document relevant to heritage and museum railways (heritage railways) that operate on their own network. It provides guidance on heritage railway's health and safety arrangements for re-commencing operations after the extended shut down due to COVID-19.

ORR's holding to account policy during coronavirus Collapse accordion Open accordion

We wrote to High Speed 1 Ltd, Highways England, train operating companies and Network Rail outlining how we would hold them to account during the coronavirus pandemic.

Advice for rail passengers

Passengers should read this advice in line with government guidance on safe travel in England, Scotland and Wales Collapse accordion Open accordion

Updated 27 July 2021

Advice

  1. Staff shortages caused by the pandemic may result in some short notice cancellations and the timetable on some routes may be reduced so you should check your journey before you travel.
  2. A face covering is recommended in crowded places and is compulsory on the Transport for London (TfL) network, and on trains in Scotland and Wales, unless you are exempt.
  3. The UK government has introduced a ‘book with confidence’ guarantee, in place until 31 December 2021. Advance tickets can be exchanged to travel at a different time or date fee-free or refunded for a rail travel voucher valid for 12 months – these changes must be requested before 6pm the day before travel. For more information please visit: National Rail Enquiries / refunds.
  4. All rail companies are still operating both booked and un-booked assistance services. Some rail companies recommend you book in advance to help them plan ahead so it is advisable to check this information on their assisted travel page before you travel.
  5. The validity of rail travel vouchers which expired between 20 October 2020 and 30 June 2021 has been extended by an additional 6 months from their original expiry date.

Competition law advice

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

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: tom.cole@orr.gov.uk.