The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has criticised what it says is “confusing” advice from the government about the continued wearing of face coverings on public transport in England after the country enters step four of the roadmap out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to happen on 19 July.
On 5 July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that legal obligations to wear face coverings – including on public transport – will end at that point. However, he added that “guidance will suggest where [people] might choose to [continue to] do so,” with one of those circumstances being named specifically as “obviously crowded public transport.”
CPT Chief Executive Graham Vidler says that this muddled approach “passes the buck to operators, unfairly placing staff on the front line in managing disputes.” He adds that if scientific evidence tells the government that face coverings are still needed, “then they should be mandated in all enclosed public spaces – but if they are no longer required, then there should be no guidance advising of their continued use.”
Mr Vidler is concerned that such “confusion and mixed messaging” will discourage customers from using public transport once step four is reached. That will hamper the sector’s ability to play its part in reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality, he adds.
CPT’s CEO says that the lack of clarity from the government on face coverings on public transport is particularly disappointing in view of Mr Johnson’s confirmation that social distancing measures in England will end when the country moves to step four of its roadmap.
While the use of all forward-facing seats on coaches and buses in England has been permitted for a number of weeks thanks to risk-based cases prepared by CPT and accepted by the government, the withdrawal of all social distancing measures will otherwise “allow buses to play a full role in the country’s recovery from the pandemic,” says Mr Vidler.