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Cover your face if you can…

A key part of Government safer travel guidance, published today, is that passengers should cover their face when using public transport. The same applies to taxis, and also to private cars if you have to travel with people you don’t live with. It’s clear that this is not so much about protecting you, but to protect your fellow passengers and transport staff. A key point to note is that the guidance isn’t for medical grade mask and there are tips provided by Government on how to make something at home.

Many passengers will welcome this advice. When we asked 2000 people last week, over half said they wouldn’t be happy using pubic transport unless people are required to wear masks. While covering your face is guidance, not a legal requirement, the expectation seems to be that strong encouragement, coupled with peer pressure, will be enough to achieve a high level of compliance.

This is a good example of where in transport, as in other walks of life, partnership is going to be key as restrictions are gradually relaxed. That is, between governments, the transport industry and passengers. Governments need to be clear who can travel and for what purpose – that’s now set out for this first tentative stage of relaxation. Transport operators need to make it crystal clear what passengers should expect, including how they’ll help people keep two metres apart. Passengers need to play their part by following social distancing guidelines and covering their faces, giving reassurance to others – passengers and transport staff – that they’ll be safe even when two metres isn’t possible.

Look out on Thursday 14 May for the second set of results from our travel behaviour and attitudes survey – again, we’ve asked a representative sample of 2000 people across Great Britain. We’ll be doing this every week. We’re also looking abroad to understand best practice in restarting transport post-Covid, and we’ll be monitoring how transport operators are communicating with their passengers.

Looking ahead to when it’s safe for travel restrictions to be significantly relaxed, the transport industry will need to win back passengers. One thing it can do is provide reassurance in the key areas we talked about last week. The other is to crack on now with fares reform – whether it is bus, train or tram, grasp this opportunity to create a genuinely simple, value for money fares structure that isn’t a barrier to using public transport.

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