Face masks compulsory on public transport across England – day one

15 June 2020

This morning our director, David Sidebottom, took part in several interviews for radio stations across the country. From stations covering Devon to Lancashire and the Solent area to the Tees region we were quizzed about what today means for transport users in England with the mandatory wearing of face coverings on various form of public transport.

Across the interviews a few themes emerged from the questions posed. Will people be turned away from using transport if they don’t have a face covering? How will that be enforced? What does this mean for staff and passengers? Who will be exempt from wearing a covering? Should passengers approach fellow passengers who are not wearing a covering? All good questions that we know are also going through the minds of people using transport today. Perhaps many returning to work or the high street to shop for the first time in three months?

We know from our latest survey that 67 per cent of people felt face coverings should be a requirement on public transport. It was therefore encouraging to hear on David’s BBC Radio Cambridge interview that most, if not all, passengers arriving at Cambridge railway station this morning were wearing face coverings. It was reported that a passenger was approached not wearing a covering but quickly pulled a scarf over their face. This form of ‘softly, softly’ engagement and education between staff, agencies and passengers will be vital in the days and weeks ahead to make this work.

Looking at what people are saying on social media produces a mixed picture on bus, rail and tram across the country:

Transport Focus has long called for clarity of messaging and communications to build reassurance as we all start to return to public transport. Another theme emerging through this morning’s batch of interviews was the question of ‘what is an essential journey?’ given that Government advice is still to only travel if your trip is essential. With the re-opening today of many retail stores, is a trip into town to buy a pair of socks or shoes essential?

While you could argue that it may not be critically essential for the consumer, but perhaps a small but vital cog in the wheel helping to get our economy going again. Making more people feeling as safe, reassured and confident on public transport will have a huge part to play in helping the economy bounce back too.

If you’ve made a journey we want to hear about your experiences. Have you made a trip to the shops? Tell us how what means of transport you took to get to there. Or maybe you are a key worker, was your journey any busier or were people around you wearing face masks? Tweet us with your experience @TransportFocus.

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