ScotRail staff banned from using whistles to stop coronavirus spread

Train whistles have become the latest victim of Covid-19 with staff banned from using them, in an effort to help reduce spread of the virus.

ScotRail conductors are among those ordered to only blow their whistles in an emergency and no longer for signalling to the driver.

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However, even in those situations, they must still be at least 2m away from anyone else.

A conductor blows a whistle at Queen Street Station. Picture: John Devlin

Other changes introduced by ScotRail have included staff no longer checking tickets on trains to focus on key cleaning duties. They are also no longer selling tickets to passengers on trains.

At stations, travellers are urged to use contactless payment, while some waiting shelters have been closed.

Frontline staff have been issued with hand sanitiser.

Drivers have said they have never seen cabs so clean.

Passenger numbers have fallen by more than 80 per cent, with travel restricted to essential workers such as NHS staff. Timetables have been reduced and altered to 
cater for workers’ shift patterns, such as for stations near hospitals in and around Glasgow.

They include more early morning and late evening trains stopping at Exhibition Centre station, which serves the temporary NHS Louisa Jordan hospital set up to treat Covid-19 patients at the Scottish Event Campus.

Conductors and ticket examiners on trains have been redeployed from checking fares to cleaning “touchpoint” areas such as door buttons, handles and grab rails which passengers most often come into contact with.

Tables, arm rests and toilets, taps and sinks are also being cleaned more frequently.
A ScotRail spokesman said: “There have been industry-wide guidelines issued to minimise the use of whistles during the train dispatch process, though they may still be used in emergency situations.

“It is primarily to do with hygiene and contamination on shared equipment, which isn’t as relevant for our people as we issue personal whistle to each member of staff who requires one for their role.

“We have issued instruction that if a whistle has to be used, then it should be at least 2m away from any other person.”

Meantime, transport secretary Michael Matheson has told MSPs that the need for the 2m physical distancing will sharply reduce train and bus capacity when the lockdown restrictions are eased.

He said there would only be between 10 and 25 per cent as much space available as normal.

He said a “rail recovery group” had been established involving both ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper.

This was considering how a phased increase in service levels could be implemented.

However, the major cut in passengers has been accompanied by an increase in punctuality to ScotRail’s best for three years.

A total of 92.3 per cent of trains were officially on time - arriving within five minutes of schedule - in March.

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