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by Louise Wilson
19 July 2021
Michael Matheson criticises LNER over decision to end social distancing on trains


Michael Matheson criticises LNER over decision to end social distancing on trains

Scottish Government ministers have expressed concern over LNER’s decision to follow English rules on social distancing on train services north of the border.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson described the decision as “unacceptable” and constitution secretary Angus Robertson said the move sought to “disregard” health and safety rules in Scotland.

In an announcement made last week, the UK government-owned train operator confirmed it intended to relax social distancing on trains from today as the guidance in England changed.

This included on services in Scotland, despite guidance on physical distancing remaining in place north of the border.

LNER’s announcement said: “Whilst social distancing guidance remains in place in Scotland, we have reached an agreement with Transport Scotland that LNER will operate under English guidance.

“This will ensure a consistent experience for customers on our cross-border services.”

However Matheson, who has oversight of Transport Scotland, said LNER should comply with Scottish regulations.

He tweeted: “This is unacceptable. LNER services operating in Scotland should comply with the [Scottish Government] public health guidance. I’ve asked Transport Scotland officials to address this point with LNER.”

Transport Scotland has confirmed it has contacted the operator to further discuss the issue.

A spokesperson said: “It is our expectation that operators providing a public transport service in Scotland to comply with the law as far as is reasonably practical and inform passengers using their services.

“This issue was flagged with LNER in advance of changes to restrictions in England and Scotland coming into force on 19 July.

"Transport Scotland officials received assurance from LNER on Friday that their messages to customers would be changed to reflect and respect Scottish Government law and guidance.

"It is not acceptable that LNER has continued to issue inaccurate advice.

“We are now discussing this issue again with LNER as a matter of urgency to ensure an approach consistent with Scottish restrictions.”

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