TRAIN operator LNER is urging passengers to continue wearing facemasks on trains and in stations and travel centres even after Freedom Day on Monday.

“The legal requirement to wear face coverings in England will be lifted on 19 July, although it will remain mandatory in Scotland,” a spokesperson for the rail operator said.

“However, the UK government expects and recommends that people will still wear face coverings (unless exempt) in areas where people are in close contact, including public transport.

“LNER is asking customers to continue to wear face coverings on its trains, in stations and in travel centres and is reminding customers that face coverings are required by law in Scotland, unless exempt.”

From Monday, however, the operator will be scrapping its requirement for all passengers to reserve a seat before travelling – though it will still be encouraging them to do so.

“In response to COVID-19 and the need to maintain social distancing, LNER accelerated plans to trial reservation-only services,” the spokesperson said. “Since it was introduced, everyone travelling has been assured a seat, even those catching a train at short notice and those with 'walk-up' tickets.

“As social distancing will be no longer required by the UK government from July 19, LNER is adapting its approach – under the new name of Seat Sure. From 19 July, LNER will continue to recommend customers reserve a seat, while increasing the flexibility for those who want to travel without making a reservation.”

Under its new arrangements, a small number of seats will be allocated in both standard class (in Coach C) and First Class (Coach M, or Coach E in five-coach trains) for passengers who want to travel without a reservation.

“Customers without a reservation will be able to travel in these unreserved areas of the train,” the LNER spokesperson said.

However, the operator is keen for as many passengers as possible to continue reserving seats – and says it has brought in changes to make this easier, including a new app and an ‘online reservations tool’.

This will allow customers to see which seats are booked, share their seat preferences - or even move their seat using an online seat map.

York Press:

LNER says it is making it easier to reserve a seat - even at short notice

Reservations can be made for free when booking, or up to five minutes before departure, at, on the LNER app, at a travel centre, or via a customer contact centre or by speaking to a team member, the company says.

Other changes being introduced include a new ‘Let’s Eat at your Seat’ service to make it easier for customers to order food and drinks from their seat.

It allows customers in Standard Class to order refreshments directly to their seat by scanning a QR code on their smartphone. The system complements the onboard café bar which continues to operate.

LNER managing director David Horne said: “We’ve been working hard throughout the pandemic to design new ways of making journeys by train as accessible, enjoyable and appealing as possible.

“We’ve made booking tickets and travelling with LNER even smarter and introduced new products that make the whole experience of rail travel even more enjoyable. The tools we have invested in offer customers greater flexibility and more choice when it comes to travelling with us.”