New rules requiring passengers to wear a face covering on their journey have come into force today as retailers head back to work.
The advice is clear that people should continue to avoid taking public transport where possible, but by mandating the use of face coverings government is asking passengers to play their part in helping to protect each other as the numbers of people travelling gradually start to rise across the country.
Over 3,000 extra staff from British Transport Police, Network Rail, Train Operating Companies and Transport for London will be deployed from Monday at key transport hubs and interchanges across England – providing dedicated reassurance, advice and friendly assistance to people as they follow social distancing guidance.
They will also support existing staff by helping to manage congestion.
Alongside this, hundreds of thousands of face coverings will be handed out for passenger use at many locations across the rail network in England from today.
The one-off initiative, which will run for several days at a number of stations, will see coverings provided free of charge to support passengers and help them travel safely.
Under the changes, operators will be able to stop passengers who refuse to follow the rules from travelling and direct them to leave services.
Commenting, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We’ve seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has unlocked a community spirit right across our nation, and we now need to extend this to our transport network so we can help keep one another safe.
“If you do need to travel, in the same way that you would pick up your phone, wallet or keys when you leave the house, please remember to bring a face covering.”
Adding: “Our fantastic transport staff will be on hand to provide help and advice, and free coverings will be given out at key train stations to help kick-start this initiative. This is another small, sensible step we can all take to help us defeat this virus.”
The change from coincides with the easing of certain lockdown measures, including the reopening of non-essential retail stores.
While social distancing and hand washing remain by far the most important disease prevention measures, when necessary to use public transport, people may be more likely to be in enclosed spaces for longer periods of time where we know there is a greater risk of the spread of the virus and social distancing is likely to be difficult to follow consistently.