Although the UK government is scrapping the requirement to wear face masks on public transport in England next week, they will remain mandatory in London.

Although the official rules within England will change to removing the legal requirement to wear a face mask, there’s an expectation that people will choose to wear one when it would be sensible to do so.

There is a conflicting issue here. On the one hand, there have been concerns that mandating face masks on public transport sends the wrong message about public transport being unsafe, when it has been repeatedly shown to be quite safe. That might slow down the recovery in public transport use.

However, the general public has also expressed concerns about travelling on trains and buses unless face coverings are mandated, and people may avoid public transport if people stop wearing face masks.

The Mayor of London has now decided then to mandate the wearing of face masks as a condition of travel on all TfL services after Monday 19th July when the existing national legal requirement finishes.

The specific requirement is listed as clause 2.4 of TfL’s conditions of carriage.

As it’s a condition of travel, it’s akin to the small print on a ticket that no one ever reads, and failure to comply can mean the person can be removed from the TfL service.

The requirement would mean passengers on all TfL services would need to continue to wear a face-cover in stations and for the duration of their journey unless they are exempt. This would include the Tube, bus, tram, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail. The Mayor has also asked TfL to put appropriate measures in place to help ensure the continued use of face coverings in taxis and private hire vehicles by both drivers and passengers unless they are exempt.

More people are now returning to public transport, with Tube ridership at around 40-45 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and bus ridership at around 60-65 per cent. Confidence in travel has also risen, with 60 per cent of people overall and 76 per cent of people who have travelled in the last seven days saying they were confident doing so.

Boosting the use of public transport is not just an issue of helping to repair TfL’s shattered finances, but also to boost the London economy overall. Much of the recovery in public transport use so far has been around the suburbs of London, with less in the centre, and that affects the city’s wider economic recovery from the pandemic.

Although mandatory face coverings can be seen as a negative, if it’s what is required by a wary public to use trains and buses, then it will help the recovery.

There could however be confusion when people switch between services, such as from National Rail which currently is not expected to mandate face coverings to TfL services that will require them. It’s likely that many people will just wear a face-covering regardless of the operator of the train, as it has become pretty much a force of habit now.

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9 comments
  1. Brian Butterworth says:

    Given that we now know that the CV-19 virus spread is aerosol only (and therefore non-contact) it is both a function of proximity and time that spreads the virus around.

    Outside this simple function, the most likely thing to reduce spread is fresh air.

    This means people don’t spread it when outside, such as an over ground station platform, but might when held in poorly ventilated (with re-cycled air) underground one.

    I would say, on the DLR – short trips outside, lots of ventilation, nothing to worry about.

    Tube lines whilst not underground: great the doors open every two minutes: little to worry about.

    Tube lines underground: the trains are either airconditoned or have good airflow from the piston effect. Unless jam-packed, little to worry about.

    However, there are lots of Underground stations that are awful: poor ventilation, people packed in: so getting to your train is a modest risk.

    Buses: not too bad with the windows open, quite bad with them shut.

    The stupid peak-time one-way system at Stratford which make the station twice as busy and traps people in the under passages: the highest risk.

    So “wear a mask” is probably the easy way to deal with these mixed risk.

  2. Maurice Reed says:

    I am all for the wearing of masks at least until next year.

  3. Betterbee says:

    Mask wearing is required in TfL’s Conditions, but those conditions also say that it’s actually National Rail’s Conditions, in which mask wearing is not mentioned, that apply to London Overground and TfL Rail, which are part of National Rail.

    So the Overground and TfL Rail references in “This would include the Tube, bus, tram, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail” are not exactly clear cut.

    • ianVisits says:

      TfL Rail and London Overground are TfL services, not Network Rail services.

      You’re confusing the service (provided by TfL) with the ownership of the railway track (Network Rail), and if that was an issue, then parts of the District line and Bakerloo line would be Network Rail services, and quite obviously, they are not.

    • Betterbee says:

      TfL’s Conditions of Carriage say

      “5.1.2 You must use your printed ticket(s) in accordance with these conditions. Printed tickets issued for use on London Overground and TfL Rail are issued in accordance with the National Rail Conditions of Travel unless otherwise stated.”

      And National Rail Conditions of Travel say, in Appendix 2, that they apply to Arriva Rail London Ltd (trading as London Overground) and to MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd (trading as TfL Rail).

      If the Overground and TfL Rail weren’t part of National Rail (not Network Rail, though they – and some LU services, as you say – use their tracks), why would National Rail Conditions apply, as both these documents confirm?

    • ianVisits says:

      Ask TfL if you feel the need to know for some reason.

    • Betterbee says:

      Thanks, but my question was rhetorical. National Rail Conditions apply because London Overground and TfL Rail are part of National Rail, as both sets of Conditions make clear.

    • ianVisits says:

      London Overground and TfL Rail are NOT part of National Rail.

  4. Lizebeth says:

    Why quibble about whose rules are whose? Although all public transport should be made as safe as possible by LAW, let us hope most people are sensible enough not to pass on whatever viruses they may be harbouring (how many colds did you get after Tube travel pre-Covid?) to others, however they may be travelling? More than ever these days, empathy — which seems a mostly forgotten concept in the Age of the Virtual — is important.

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