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New controls on Avanti West Coast to achieve social distancing

THE West Coast Main Line intercity operator Avanti West Coast has introduced controls on its trains to achieve social distancing.

The most obvious change is that passengers are being urged to reserve their seats and buy tickets online in advance, although Railnews understands that around 25 per cent of capacity will be kept free for last-minute travellers.

However, Avanti has emphasised that such travellers are taking a risk, because they might not be allowed to board the first train.

Passengers are also being encouraged to check before they travel in case the time of their train has changed, and are asked to wear a face covering.

The controls have come in ahead of increases in National Rail services from Monday, and should achieve an occupancy of no more than 20 per cent. This means that an 11-car Pendolino will be able to carry no more than around 110 people.

An insider said they would be ‘keeping an eye on loadings’, and that the primary aim was to achieve social distancing. Other measures to improve safety include stepped-up cleaning, face masks for staff and the closure of waiting rooms and First Class lounges.

The shops on Voyagers will also be closed although they will remain open on Pendolinos, but there will be no at-seat service in First Class.

AWC managing director Phil Whittingham said: ‘We’re appealing to our valued customers to help us and other passengers by only travelling with a reservation. If everyone does this, we’ll be able to keep social distancing in place on board, both for our customers and our people.

‘If customers do turn up without a reservation, we’ll do our best to help but we can’t guarantee they’ll be able to take the train they want.’

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