European Railway Agency - ERA

Making the railway system work better for society.

COVID-19 Information Platform

Rail transport is a key enabler of our European economy and currently the most-sustainable mode of transport with a high level of safety. After many weeks of confinement measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis, it is now essential to ensure that transport services and connectivity are progressively restored, optimally safeguarding the health and safety of passengers, transport workers and staff, and to re-establish trust in rail services.

As the situation varies in each Member State and anticipating eventual temporary or local measures in case of further ‘waves’ of COVID-19, the Agency has created this COVID-19 information platform to support the sector in its efforts. Conceived as a flexible information point which is continuously updated, it should facilitate the international exchange of COVID-19 relevant information, experiences and best practices in the European transport sector and beyond.

Can we help you? For specific questions or expert advice, please write to COVID RAIL

The European Commission’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic prioritises keeping citizens healthy. This includes keeping essential transport moving, for example to transport medical supplies and other essential goods.

COVID-19 Guidelines on the progressive restoration of transport services and connectivity, published 13.05.2020, articles 53-56.

“For passenger transport to resume, it will be important to assure passengers that taking collective transport is safe. Measures need to be well communicated, visible and effective. Especially for international rail services, measures need to be coordinated among Member States and operators in order to be effective. The rail sector associations and worker organisations are working towards common rules.

Given the high number of passengers transported daily, and the number of stations served, compliance with the general rules for safe behaviour to protect public health, in particular adequate distancing, also depends on the diligence and sense of responsibility of each passenger. Random controls should ensure a good level of compliance.

As railways have continued to function throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, there is already a number of measures in place that can be retained and adapted where necessary:

  1. Distancing obligations should be applied on trains where needed, in particular as long as passenger numbers are relatively low. To enable distancing, frequency and capacity of trains should be increased if necessary to reduce passenger density.
  2. Rail operators should implement mandatory seat reservations on long-distance and regional trains, with identification of name/origin and destination of passengers. Alternatively, and especially for short-distance trains, passengers should be required to leave seats empty between them, except for passengers from the same household.
  3. Rail operators should make use of on-board passenger counting systems especially available for commuter and suburban trains (based on weight, footsteps in the door areas, and also CCTV counting algorithms which do not allow for identification of individuals) to manage capacity. The timetabling and path allocation may need flexible adjustments, including optimizing capacity in a coordinated manner to reflect demand and the need to reduce passenger density.
  4. Passenger flow management should be implemented at stations. Where adequate levels of public health cannot be ensured, the closing of certain stops or stations should be considered.
  5. Off-peak hour travel should be encouraged with incentives, such as adjusted pricing, or flexible working hours in the case of commuter trains, to avoid crowding.
  6. To avoid that passengers have to touch door handles or buttons, doors should be opened at each stop either automatically or remotely by the driver.”

For specific enquiries or questions, please write to: EU-COVID TRANSPORT

COVID-19 Railway Protocol

Based on its relevant expertise with railway operations and with Common Safety Methods, as well as its extensive network of communication channels (with authorities, operators, and manufacturers), the Agency has organized an Information Platform based on the existing Networks for respectively NSAs and Representative Bodies to facilitate and promote the sharing of best practices.

For the safe resumption of railway operations in Europe, the European Union Agency’s for Railways (ERA), the European Commission and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have developed operational guidelines with the COVID-19 railway protocol. It complements measures taken by the European Commission to support Member States in re-launching safe mobility and tourism across Europe.

You’ll find here dedicated COVID-19 information bulletins for your reference. Drafted and validated by experts from ERA and from other organisations they provide advice that is not legally binding or mandatory.

Q & A

Page 14 of the COVID-19 Rail protocol has the following text: “A used face mask as well as other waste from symptomatic patients can be treated as regular waste.” Does this mean that a face mask used by a person WITH symptoms can still be treated as regular waste?

From relevant ECDC guidance on Disinfection of environments in healthcare and non-healthcare settings potentially contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 and from ECDC guidance on household waste we recommend in addition to the cleaning instructions outlined in the COVID-19 Rail Protocol to use disposable single-use cleaning equipment. Waste can be treated as regular waste and placed in the unsorted garbage but avoid emptying bins to other bins or waste bags.

The preferred method is to close and remove the waste bags before replacing them. Staff engaged in environmental cleaning in public spaces after a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 person was present should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and perform hand hygiene each time after removing gloves or mask. Waste material produced during the cleaning should be placed in a separate bag, which can be disposed in the unsorted garbage.

COVID-19 Study

ERA developed a first mathematical model to estimate the COVID-19 risk when travelling long-distance by train in order to provide the necessary knowledge that can be used by decision makers and the public. The mathematical model reflects the current status of knowledge about the COVID-19 disease and its pandemic effect. As such the primary study question focuses on what the incremental risk of COVID-19 infection during travel for travelers using collective means of transport. The core of the analysis is focused on the case where vaccines are not widely available. However, consideration has also been given to determining the potential influence of vaccines on risks for travelers.

Organisation COVID-19 sources of information
Andrea Horvat-Kramaric
+46 (0)8 58 60 16 78
EASA European Union Aviation Safety Agency
Eventually add here some text or pdf’s if relevant, same for each organisation
EMSA European Maritime Safety Agency
SHIFT2RAIL Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking
UIC Information bulletins:


Any information given on this webpage are taking into account our current knowledge about the COVID-19 pandemic. We will update the information when necessary. Even though we did the utmost to carefully verify all information, accuracy cannot be guaranteed and ERA cannot be held liable for possible errors on this webpage. If you judge any information is incorrect or incomplete please give us your feedback by writing to COVID-RAIL.  We will check it and share the information with the sector and other authorities to the benefit of all.