Face coverings to be mandatory on all public transport from June 15
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Members of the public travelling on Greater Anglia train services and Ipswich or First Suffolk buses will have to wear face coverings, under new measures announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The announcement was made by Mr Shapps at the Downing Street press conference on Thursday afternoon and covers all forms of transport across England.
Mr Shapps said: “I can announce that as of Monday June 15 face coverings will become mandatory on public transport.
“That doesn’t mean surgical masks, which we must keep for clinical settings.
“It means the kind of face covering, you can easily make at home. There will be exemptions to these rules for very young children, for disabled people and those with breathing difficulties.”
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He said “we need to ensure every precaution is taken on buses, trains, aircraft, and on ferries”.
“With more people using transport the evidence suggests wearing face coverings offers some - albeit limited - protection against the spread for the virus.”
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Those who don’t wear face coverings could be fined or refused permission to board buses or trains.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said staff who come into contact with passengers will also have to wear face coverings, as he said all the measures apply only in England.
Mr Shapps told the Downing Street briefing: “Of course frontline staff, those in contact with passengers, doing such an important job at this crucial time will also need to wear face coverings.
“In the coming days the Government will work with the unions, who’ve been supportive, for which I’m very grateful, transport operators and the police to ensure that they’ve the supplies they need to be safe and to provide reassurance to the public.
“These measures apply in England but we’re working with the devolved administrations ahead of implementation.”
Mr Shapps told the press conference the changes would be made under the National Rail conditions of travel and public service vehicle regulations for buses.
“This will mean that you can be refused travel if you don’t comply and you could be fined.
“Alongside transport operators, this will be enforced by the British Transport Police if necessary, but I expect the vast majority of people won’t need to be forced into this, because wearing a face covering helps protect others.”
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), said: “The RMT has been campaigning for compulsory wearing of masks on public transport and this is long overdue, but we fear this announcement is being driven not by safety concerns but by the premature easing of the lockdown which is swelling passenger numbers and making social distancing on transport increasingly impossible.
“By themselves, face masks are nowhere near enough to protect passengers and worker safety on public transport.
“They need to be combined with preventing non-essential travel and compulsory enforcement of two-metre social distancing.”
Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “This is a sensible step. We have been working closely with the Government to ensure that agreed increases in services on Britain’s train and Tube network is done in a safe and controlled manner, to help spread the loading, and maintain social distancing for the safety of passengers and staff.
“The instruction to wear face coverings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus will ease the concerns of people travelling, and working, on the transport network.”