Covid Edinburgh: Bar manager hits out at Covid rules after boarding ‘crammed’ train

A bar manager has taken aim at the Scottish Government and a train company after he boarded a train which appeared to have no empty seats or physical distancing rules in place.

Plamen Penchev, who runs Rat Pack Piano Bar in Edinburgh, took some time off work to visit Penrith, England, for a short holiday.

After boarding a train at Edinburgh Waverely on Sunday, he said he was horrified to find no spare seats and passengers sitting on the floor next to toilet facilities throughout the service.

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Speaking to Edinburgh Evening News, the 37-year-old said: “I couldn’t believe how crammed the train was.

"Being someone who works in hospitality and who has been fighting to keep business going since Covid times, this sight was just incredibly frustrating.

"There was absolutely no sign of any physical distancing, people were crammed together and there were no windows open for any ventilation.

"How train companies are able to get away with this while the hospitality sector is struggling like I have never seen before is just incredibly disappointing.

Pictures showing the inside of the train that Mr Penchev was on. In his photos he avoided capturing passengers' faces, but he said there were many sitting on the floor and all the seats were full, so he had to stand for most of the journey.

"I am so disappointed in this country.”

The bar manager, who has worked in the hospitality sector for about two decades, said his journey highlighted how “unfair” the Scottish Government has been on the hospitality sector.

"There needs to be one rule for everyone,” he said.

"It’s unfair that some companies in the UK are able to stay open later, have more people inside, while in Scotland we are still so restricted.

"The industry is in a shocking state, and seeing all these people on the train just made me think what is this government doing to support the hospitality industry? It’s a joke. Why are we so restricted still when this lack of physical distancing is clearly happening?

"I don’t mind the rules, the table service, but when you see sights like this with all these people close together it’s incredibly frustrating that we as an industry are still having to be so strict.”

Mr Penchev was on a Transpennine express service from Edinburgh to Manchester.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As the First Minister has made clear, decisions are based on the latest data available in Scotland. We do not want to keep restrictions in place a minute longer than is necessary, but when changes are made they reflect the situation in Scotland, not elsewhere.

“We fully understand the challenges facing the hospitality sector as we look to balance measures to suppress the virus and protect lives, with keeping businesses open and trading viably. Scottish businesses have directly benefitted from £3.6 billion in support – more than a third of the total COVID-19 funding - and we have provided targeted support when localised restrictions are put in place.

A spokesman for TransPennine Express said: “We are really sorry that some of our customers had a disappointing experience travelling on our services this weekend.

"We have restricted the amount of advanced tickets that we sell to enable social distancing on our services and our conductors make regular announcements around social distancing and wearing face coverings, unless customers are exempt.

“We’d advise that our customers do book in advance on board our services and try and travel at quieter times on the network.”

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