Face masks to remain compulsory on Tube trains and London buses
- Credit: PA
London's mayor has asked transport chiefs to enforce face mask wearing on Tube trains and buses beyond July 19, when legal restrictions will be lifted in England.
Sadiq Khan said he was “not prepared to stand by" and put people and the economy “at risk” by removing the rules on face coverings after so-called “freedom day” next Monday.
If enforced by Transport for London (TfL), officers would be able to deny access or eject passengers found to be non-compliant while using the transport network.
The Prime Minister announced on Monday (July 12) that most of England’s legal Covid-19 restrictions, including compulsory mask wearing in many indoor public settings, will end next week as part of the final stage of his road map out of the coronavirus lockdown.
While Boris Johnson has urged people to exercise “personal responsibility” in continuing to wear masks in “crowded and enclosed spaces”, Mr Khan has called for TfL to go further by continuing to mandate their use.
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The requirement would mean passengers on all TfL services, which includes the tube, bus, tram, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), Overground and TfL Rail, would need to continue to wear a face covering in stations and for the duration of their journey unless they are exempt.
Mr Khan has also asked TfL to put measures in place to help ensure the continued use of masks in taxis and private hire vehicles by both drivers and passengers unless they are exempt.
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“I’ve repeatedly made clear that the simplest and safest option would have been for the government to retain the national requirement for face coverings on public transport,” Mr Khan said.
“I’m not prepared to stand by and put Londoners, and our city’s recovery, at risk.
“This is why, after careful consideration, I have decided to ask TfL to retain the requirement for passengers to wear a face covering on all TfL services when the national regulations change.
“By keeping face masks mandatory we will give Londoners and visitors the reassurance and confidence to make the most of what our city has to offer, while also protecting our heroic transport workers and those who may be vulnerable and rely on the network to get around our city.
“It’s an extra layer of protection on top of TfL’s world-leading enhanced cleaning regime – and I’m sure Londoners will continue to do the right thing as they have done throughout the pandemic, and continue to wear a face covering on TfL services.”
Officials said TfL enforcement officers patrolling London’s transport network, under the conditions of carriage requirement, will be able to refuse entry to people not wearing masks and who are not exempt, and would also be able to ask people to leave services for failure to comply.
TfL said that over the past year almost 212,000 people have been stopped by enforcement officers from getting on the network until they put on a face covering.
Around 14,000 people have been prevented from boarding and around 3,200 were ejected from services.
In total, 4,300 fixed penalty notices have been issued since the mask wearing rules came in last year, it said.
Station staff and bus drivers will continue to remind passengers that face coverings are a requirement after July 19.
The request is widely supported by transport bosses.
Andy Byford, London’s transport commissioner, thanks those who have followed the rules to help control the virus.
“I urge everyone to continue to follow the requirements so that we can continue to build confidence, and get back to the many wonderful things about London that we have missed during the pandemic,” he added.
Union chiefs called for "consistency" across local and national transport services so there aren't "different rules on the tube and the main line services.
TfL said it considered amending the existing byelaws to include the mask compulsion, but that such a move would have taken significant time and may have resulted in a gap between national regulations ending and TfL requirements coming into operation.
A government spokeswoman said: “As we’ve set out, we’re moving from a universal government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility.
“The guidance is clear that people are expected and recommended to wear a mask when they come into contact with people they don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces.
“It is open to transport operators to decide if they want to take further measures.”