Sunday, 25 Jul 2021

Face masks to stay compulsory on London transport – can you be fined for breaching rules?

Sadiq Khan confirms face masks to remain compulsory on TFL

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Face masks have been mandatory on public transport in England since June 15 last year. The decision was made because public transport was seen as a place where social distancing was not always possible. The masks must be worn on transport and at transportation hubs. Many people are exempt including children aged under 11 and TfL employees.

Sadiq Khan has revealed Transport for London will continue to enforce mandatory mask-wearing on its transport services beyond July 19.

From Monday, the legal requirement to wear coverings on public transport in England will end as part of the Government’s lockdown easing roadmap.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the public to exercise “personal responsibility” and should continue to wear masks in “crowded and enclosed spaces”.

Speaking from Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: “We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing, but we expect and recommend that people wear a face-covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet, such as on public transport.”

But instead of allowing people to use their personal judgement regarding masks in public spaces, Mr Khan has gone a step further.

The London Mayor has made mask-wearing a condition of carriage for the Tube, bus, tram, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail.

This means it will be listed as a condition in a legal agreement between Transport for London and its customers.

TfL staff and bus drivers will continue to remind passengers masks are a requirement for travel.

London is the first city in England to insist face coverings be worn even after restrictions have eased on July 19.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said he has not ruled out mandating face masks on public transport.

Mr Burnham added he wanted to avoid adding to people’s confusion and had not yet decided.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the mandatory wearing of face coverings will remain in place for “some time”.

The response from the public to Mr Khan’s decision has been mixed.

Many people are in support of the move, with one person tweeting: “Glad to see Sadiq Khan leading on this in London. Masks are uncomfortable and I look forward to us no longer needing them. For now – it’s the right thing to do for each other. Soon we’ll be back to licking each other on the face on the Northern Line. Just not yet.”

Another person added: “Sadiq Khan and Transport for London – Thank you for insisting that face masks are to be worn on London transport. Very, very sensible move. Signed: grateful commuter”.

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One Twitter user commented: “Common sense prevails as the government abandons us to Covid. Sadiq Khan

is keeping face masks compulsory on London transport after July 19.”

Another social media user wrote: “Great that face-coverings will remain on London underground, but it doesn’t help a lot of people does it? Ridiculous that restrictions are being lifted at all. Should at least be mandatory for masks on all public transport and in shops for those not legitimately medically exempt.”

One person was quick to criticise the move, claiming there is no enforcement of the rules now and likely will not be beyond July 19.

The social media user wrote: “Keeping face masks in public transport is nothing but another PR stand by the London Mayor. Hardly anyone wears a face mask on the tube even now, can’t see anyone wearing it beyond next week. There is no enforcement whatsoever. The Mayor knows that very very well.”

Another added: “This is a bit of a joke though since people on public transport in London are not all wearing face masks right now when there are allegedly rules around it.”

But what will happen if you refuse to wear your mask on London transport?

Conditions of carriage are contractual conditions between passengers and TfL.

Existing conditions include not consuming alcohol, smoking or vaping.

Trained enforcement officers travel on London transportation to ensure passengers have paid to travel and adhere to other conditions of carriage.

TfL’s specially trained enforcement officers, who patrol the transport network to ensure customers and staff remain safe, will run targeted operations and will refuse entry to people not wearing masks and who are not exempt.

They would also be able to ask people to leave services for failure to comply with the requirement. 

TfL does not tolerate any abuse of its staff and any such behaviour will result in prosecution.

Trade unions claim frontline workers could face disputes with passengers when trying to enforce masks once the England-wide guidance alters.

From 2 May to 29 May 2021, 86 percent of TfL customers said they were wearing face coverings at all times on public transport.

Of the 14 percent not wearing a face covering at all times or not at all, 74 percent claim to have an exemption or good reason under the current regulations for not doing so, according to TfL research.

Express.co.uk has approached Transport for London for more information about punishments for breaching the rules.

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