Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

Time to clamp down more on face covering rules?

29 January 2021

I think public transport operators should enforce social distancing policies more and ensure that everyone who is not exempt is wearing a mask. With more people travelling to their workplace this time, operators should make sure that public transport is as safe as it can be.” Female, 24, York and Humber, bus community member

Should such a more hard line zero-tolerance approach on public transport be adopted?

Concerns about the behaviour of other passengers on public transport are still top of mind for passengers making essential journeys, and for those who aren’t currently travelling. Our Transport User Community has expressed a desire for a zero-tolerance approach on public transport, which they feel should involve clamping down on those not wearing face coverings or observing social distancing.

The community is concerned about the new more transmissible variant of Covid-19. This leads many to argue that there must be a stronger drive towards compliance. The community recognises that many are becoming tired of the continuing restrictions, therefore they are pushing for a sustained enforcement of the rules which reflects recent government messaging.

Nothing has changed my way of thinking regarding the pandemic that the government and authorities should be clamping down on people a lot harder. Hopefully once the vaccine begins to be taken by a large section of the population things might start to begin to change.” Male, 46, Scotland, bus community member

Our weekly survey shows that there is still a significant minority of those making journeys on train and bus at the moment who didn’t feel safe (21 per cent felt unsafe on trains and 19 per cent felt unsafe on bus). When asked why they didn’t feel safe, passengers were likely to mention the behaviour of other passengers. This included people not observing social distancing or wearing a face covering, like this passenger below:

“Other passengers not wearing face masks, drivers not asking passengers to wear face masks or wearing them themselves, other passengers not keeping a distance from me.”

While the availability of a vaccine inspires hope for the future, people are still uncertain about what exactly it will mean for their own use of public transport. In our survey, 50 per cent said they would feel more comfortable about travelling by public transport if they need to once they receive the vaccine. 43 per cent said they would feel more comfortable travelling by public transport once vulnerable friends or family had received the vaccine. 44 per cent said they expect to use public transport as much as they did before March last year when enough people have been vaccinated.

These figures are perhaps unsurprising given we are still in the very early stages of the vaccine roll-out, and they might look different as more and more are vaccinated and confidence grows. Many of our community are still unsure about how the vaccine will affect their future travel. Intentions also won’t be entirely dependent on the roll-out of the vaccine – having somewhere to go for work or leisure activities will also influence how and when people travel.

Passengers are very aware of how highly transmissible the new variant of Covid-19 is, and are asking for fellow passengers and transport operators alike to stick diligently to the rules, so that once the vaccine is widespread life and travel can start to resume.

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