PASSENGERS are asked to pass on a smile to help make fellow rail travellers feels safe and comfortable as they start to use trains again.

The Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership is giving passengers free ‘friendly’ face coverings at Bishop Auckland Station.

The partnership said as lockdown eases and people are vaccinated against Covid-19, passenger numbers on the Bishop Line are starting to rise.

It said some people may find the return to train travel daunting, so it is urging other passengers to make everyone’s journey as friendly and comfortable as possible.

Felicity Machnicki, officer for the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership and mental health first aider at Darlington Borough Council, said: “Bishop Line friendly face coverings are available free of charge to passengers to help pass on a smile to people returning to the railway.

"As our passengers return to the Bishop Line, we’d like to see the sense of community return too.

“Face coverings are still essential to help control the spread of coronavirus along with other measures, but they can take away some of the social interaction which take place when you travel by train.

"A smile from fellow passenger could make someone feel more comfortable on their first train journey since lockdown. With spirits raised they pass on that smile to another passenger, and so on.

"We designed the friendly face coverings to start that chain reaction and help bring a sense of comfort back to our passengers during these changing times."

Marie Addison, community and sustainability manager for transport operator Northern, said: "At Northern, we are working hard to make travelling by train safe, by cleaning all carriages and key stations every day, placing extra focus on cleaning touchpoints like handrails and armrests, using an anti-viral sanitiser which stops the virus for longer plus our staff are on hand to help and are working harder than ever to make travelling on the Bishop Line safe and enjoyable."

People are also urged to follow Government guidelines to help keep themselves, other passengers and transport staff safe including wearing a face covering on public transport and in substantially enclosed areas unless exempt.

They should also:

• stay 2m apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1m while wearing a face covering

• limit the number of people or households that you come into contact with, for example, by avoiding the busiest routes, as well as busy times, such as the rush hour

• travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow

• avoid loud talking, shouting or singing

• wash or sanitise your hands regularly

• avoid touching your face

• only touch surfaces where required for safe travel

• dispose of waste safely, including items such as used disposable face coverings.

The friendly face coverings will be available from Bishop Auckland Station while stocks last and will be given out thanks to the support of Bishop Trains staff.