Date: Monday 11th January 2020
As some of my readers will know I am a key worker and so, despite various tiers and lockdowns, I am continuing to commute from Peterborough to London to do my bit to keep the capital moving despite Coronavirus. These commutes a few days a week have been a way for me to get a small ‘fix’ of train travel, and I thought I’d write this post (and do this YouTube video) to give you an idea of what travelling on trains during lockdown is like. I’m not going to use my normal rating scale for this journey, given the unique circumstances.
The first thing to note is that LNER now require you to have a reservation for a specific train, even if you have an open ticket, so as to ensure social distancing on board. These reservations can be made up to five minutes before travel, ensuring flexibility is still maintained, and the reservations can be made online, on the app or via ticket offices.
When these reservations were first introduced there were issues with the system only providing minimum distancing even on empty trains, whilst there were also no options to be able to choose your seat. The reservation system was changed just before Christmas 2020, firstly to provide better social distancing, maximising the space available, whilst also allowing you to select your seat preferences with varying degrees of success.
I was booked on the 0640 Peterborough to King’s Cross, the service which is the first of the day from Leeds to London. Pre-Covid, this was one of the busiest services of the morning from Peterborough, with it arriving into King’s Cross around 0730, allowing commuters to get to their offices for 0800. However, on the day of this journey, we were just over a week into England’s third lockdown and I counted just a dozen people waiting on the platform for the train.
Since the first Covid lockdown, the vast majority of the shops at Peterborough station have been closed and haven’t reopened at any point through the fluxing of restrictions in England. The one that has opened is the independent coffee stall on platforms 2 & 3, which provides excellent coffee at a much more reasonable price than Starbucks.
With the 0640 departing from platform 1, I didn’t get chance to grab a coffee at the station, and so one of my first tasks after boarding was to venture down to coach G and the LNER café bar. These were closed for a couple of months early in the Covid pandemic but have since reopened with a limited range of refreshments and various safety measures in place, including only accepting card payments.
Having purchased my coffee fix (for just £2.50), I made my way back to my seat, counting just 10 passengers in the two carriages I passed through. My seat was about two-thirds of the way down coach B, in one of the table bays, something I has successfully managed to select when making my reservation via the LNER app.
LNER are conducting ticket checks onboard once again, with either the Train Manager or the Revenue team, usually coming through the train shortly after departing Peterborough. Having travelled quite a bit by train on various operators when restrictions were relaxed, ticket checks are very much hit and miss depending on the agreements the unions have come to with each operator and how easy it is for the staff to social distance onboard.
Since early on in the Covid pandemic, LNER trains have also had an additional member of staff onboard, with each train having a dedicated cleaner onboard. To help keep the virus at bay, these cleaners go through the trains whilst enroute to clean surfaces, spray areas with anti-viral spray and collect rubbish. These cleaners are on top of the standard cleaning regime, with an army of cleaners boarding each train as they arrive into King’s Cross.
As with all the Train Operators, LNER have made lots of efforts to make travel as safe as possible during the pandemic, whilst maintaining high levels of customer service. With additional cleaning, and social distancing onboard, travelling by train during the Covid crisis is certainly safe, and you should definitely consider a rail journey once travel is allowed again.