Face coverings to become mandatory on public transport in England
Posted: 5 June 2020 | Sam Mehmet (Intelligent Transport)
As of 15 June 2020 it will be mandatory for public transport passengers to wear face coverings in England, with operators and police able to issue fines and refuse service to those not complying.
Speaking at the Downing Street coronavirus briefing, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has confirmed that the British government is asking operators to introduce face coverings as a requirement for travel from 15 June 2020.
It was stressed that, wherever possible, people should continue to avoid public transport, but the introduction of the obligation has been designed to protect those who are using public transport for essential reasons.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has set out that using face coverings in the setting of public transport can provide some small additional protection to fellow passengers and can help people to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus if they are suffering from coronavirus, but not showing symptoms.
The changes will be made under legislation such as the National Rail Conditions of Travel and Public Service Vehicle Regulations for buses. While the government expects the vast majority of people to comply with the changes, operators and police will be able to refuse travel or issue penalty fines for those who fail to wear a face covering.
Shapps said: “While respecting social distancing and maintaining good hand hygiene remain the most important steps we can all take to stay safe, wearing a face covering can play a role in helping us to protect each other.
“This is about the small changes we can take to help control the virus, which is why I urge everyone using transport to wear a face covering, to help keep us all safer.”
It was highlighted that face coverings are not the same as face masks, and people have been urged not to use medical grade PPE masks to ensure these remain available for frontline staff.
Paul Plummer, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Wearing face coverings on trains will help to ensure that those who need to travel by rail can do so with confidence. Greater use of face coverings will boost the other measures we are putting in place to keep people safe, like more thorough cleaning, improved information on potential crowding and one-way systems at busier stations.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I’m pleased that our lobbying has paid off and the government has finally seen sense and made it mandatory for people to wear face coverings on public transport. This is something I and others have been calling on ministers to do for some time, and is in line with a large body of evidence that they can help stop the spread of coronavirus.
“TfL continues to work hard to maximise services despite staff being ill, shielding or self-isolating. The reality is that due to social distancing the effective capacity of public transport services has been dramatically reduced. We can only carry between 13-15 per cent of passengers. We all must play our part by working from home if we can and making journeys on foot or by bike if at all possible in order to keep the service safe for those who really need it. I want to thank Londoners who have made monumental sacrifices over the last ten weeks and stuck to the rules. I urge them to continue to do so to help save lives.”
Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner, commented: “I encourage customers not to wait, and to start wearing them now if they are not already. Face coverings can now be quite easily made or purchased, and we are helping by temporarily handing out free masks at hot spot Tube and bus stations. But the clear advice from the government and Mayor remains – people should continue to work from home if they can and avoid travelling on public transport to create space for those who are making essential journeys.”