Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has appealed to passengers to obey the law and wear face coverings after revealing that, on some services, only 60 per cent are complying.
It has been mandatory to wear a covering on public transport since 15 June and regional compliance with the Department for Transport (DfT) direction was initially positive. TfGM figures show that, during the first week, on average, 80-90 per cent of bus, tram and rail passengers wore a face covering while travelling.
However, during the week beginning 6 July, this fell to an average of around 70 per cent on buses, with some operators reporting compliance ranges of between 50-90 per cent. On Metrolink, compliance during the morning peak was around 80 per cent and dropped to 60 per cent during the evening peak.
The number of people observed wearing face coverings while using the region’s trains continues to remain high, at between 85 and 90 per cent.
As a result, the transport authority is implementing high-visibility patrols by police and transport staff. They will be speaking to people not wearing face coverings, encouraging them to wear one and checking whether they have an exemption. If not, police and transport staff will enforce the rules and passengers may be fined, prevented from boarding or asked to leave public transport until they have provided themselves with a face covering.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “Passengers will start to see an increased presence across the networks as we seek to project a safety-first approach and boost people’s confidence in our public transport network.
“Although we would rather persuade passengers to do the right thing and wear a face covering if they can, they need to be aware that we can ask them to leave or even fine them up to £100 if they refuse.
“We would also ask passengers to bear in mind that some people may have a justifiable reason for not wearing a mask and we’ve issued them with journey assist cards to help with that instance.”
Chief Inspector Gareth Firth from Greater Manchester Police’s Transport Unit said: “It is important for us all to be responsible and protect each other from Coronavirus by adhering to the government’s latest guidance. Wearing a face covering whilst travelling on public transport forms part of that guidance.
“We are grateful to those people that are playing their part in keeping public transport safe by following the guidelines, and we will be working alongside TFGM to ensure this continues.
“If officers come across passengers that are not wearing face coverings when on public transport, we will engage with passengers and encourage them to comply with the latest regulations.”
There are several exemptions to wearing face coverings, including children under the age of 11, anyone with a disability or condition which means they are unable to wear one, transport staff and emergency services.
A face covering isn’t the same as a surgical face mask. It can be a scarf or bandana, or can be made at home. Department for Transport guidance states that public transport drivers are exempt from wearing face coverings as it can affect their ability to drive. They are enclosed in their cabs or behind screens in most cases and are following all other hygiene precautions laid down by their employers for controlling coronavirus.
However, staff at stops, stations and interchanges are always required to wear a face covering when in proximity to members of the public.