Assisted Travel information Page updated Thursday 01 April 2021 09:21

To help stop the potential spread of Coronavirus, the UK government has decided that from Monday 15 June 2020 the wearing of face coverings when travelling by train or other public transport will be compulsory in England and Scotland. 


Not everyone has to wear a face covering when travelling on National Rail, see our Exemptions page for details.

Below is a short Frequently Asked Questions that tells customers with assisted travel needs all you need to know to follow this new rule, which will apply on all rail services for your entire journey.

Your Journey Questions  Buying a Ticket  Face Coverings  Face Covering Exemptions 

Your Journey Questions

Is assistance still available?
Yes.  We are asking customers where they can to book ahead.  Where customers can’t book, we’ll still provide assistance as quickly as we can.

Why are rail companies asking me to book in advance?
We have limited numbers of staff available in some areas due to challenges such as staff isolating, some staff shielding or even just social distancing.  We don’t want this to impact on customer journeys wherever possible. 

If customers can book, we’ll be able to reserve seats or spaces and plan better.  If a customer cannot book, we’ll do our best to assist as quick as possible.

We know that sometimes customers can’t book ahead, especially when they might be working or building up their mental health to feeling confident to make a journey.  

You can find all of the contact details for train operators’ assistance booking services on our Assisted Travel page.

I need a priority seat or wheelchair space but I can’t reserve these on my train. Can I still travel and if so, how should I do this?
You can still travel on most services without a reservation.  If you need a wheelchair space onboard, staff will make sure that you can use the wheelchair space for your wheelchair or mobility device as a priority.  If there are no wheelchair spaces available because other wheelchair users are using them, we will assist you on to the next available service.

We will help customers find a priority seat where possible.  If you can, please give up a priority seat to a customer who needs it.

If your operator is providing services that require a reservation, you should reserve a space in advance.  Please visit your train operator’s website to check.

I am blind or living with vision loss.  Can staff still guide me?
Staff will still provide guidance when needed.  Please don’t hesitate to explain to staff what you need to make your journey.  Please be aware that some staff might ask if they can use a covering between their arm and your hand.  This is to provide as much safety to you as possible.

If you need direction from the staff in any way, please don’t hesitate to explain what you need from them.

Buying a Ticket

I can’t pay by card.  Can I still buy a ticket with cash? 
Yes.  Ticket offices are still open for customers who need to purchase tickets using cash.  Please be aware that staff might ask if you can pay by card.  Please don’t be afraid to say “I need to pay cash”.

What if the ticket I need isn’t available on a ticket machine?
Ticket offices are still open for customers who need to purchase tickets or use a discount that isn’t available on a ticket machine.  Please pay by card if you can.  We know this might not always be possible.

What if I can’t use a ticket machine?
Ticket offices are still open for customers who need to purchase tickets or use a discount that isn’t available on a ticket machine.  Please pay by card if you can.  We know this might not always be possible.

If a customer is unable to use a ticket machine due to their disability and a ticket office is not open, customers are permitted to travel without a ticket and buy at the first available opportunity.  If a customer does this, they are still able to buy their ticket with the range of discounts that would be offered at a ticket office. 

This is also confirmed within the National Rail Conditions of Travel 6.1.3.

Face Coverings

Do disabled people need to wear a face covering?
People with a disability or illness that means that they cannot wear a face covering can still travel by train. Government guidance states that you do not have to wear a face covering if:

  • If you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering.
  • If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress.
  • If you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate.
  • If you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering.

We are asking our staff to be considerate when using their discretion. The following kinds of illness or disability may mean someone does not need to wear a face covering: 

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Conditions affecting dexterity
  • Mental health conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders
  • Autism
  • Dementia
  • Visual impairments or with a restricted field of vision
  • Anyone reliant on lip reading – including companions or carers for whom a face covering would impede their ability to communicate 

Also, people are permitted to remove their face covering to take medication.

Our staff are also being briefed about this.

You can view the Government guidance on exemptions to face coverings here.

I am D/deaf or living with hearing loss and I need to lip read.  Do I need to use a face covering?  Can staff remove their face coverings?
If you need to remove your face covering or ask a member of staff to remove theirs to communicate, please remember to give staff two metres space to ensure that social distancing can be adhered to.  If staff are behind screens and light is reflecting on the screen, please ask if they could write down any information for you or move to enable you to lip read.

If you are reliant on lip reading – for example with companions or carers – for your journey, you will not be expected to wear a covering when communicating.

Please wear a face covering when not communicating for your safety if you can.

I have a mental health condition that means I cannot wear a face covering.  Will staff be made aware that I am exempt?
Yes.  We will brief staff to ensure that they are considerate and discrete when engaging customers about wearing a face covering. 

Do I need to provide proof I can’t wear a face covering?
No.  Staff will be briefed to understand that any customer who is living with a disability or health condition will not be required to provide any proof.


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Last updated:   09 April 2021