Police and public transport operators are coming together to remind passengers of the importance of wearing face coverings while using the region’s buses, trains and trams after a recent fall in compliance.
Failure to do so, unless exempt, could see passengers prevented from travelling or even fined up to £100.
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. Figures show that, during the first week, on average, 80-90% 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% on bus with some operators reporting compliance ranges of between 50-90%. On Metrolink, compliance during the morning peak was around 80% and dropped to 60% during the evening peak.
The number of people observed wearing face coverings while using our region’s trains continues to remain high, at between 85 and 90%.
To remind passengers of their responsibility to keep themselves and others safe and increase compliance, the TravelSafe Partnership will be holding a week of action, starting this Thursday (16 July).
This will include high visibility patrols by police and transport staff as well as increased education and engagement with passengers.
Police and transport staff 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 prevented from boarding or asked to leave public transport until they have provided themselves with a face covering.
Staff will also be on hand at key city centre transport locations to hand out face coverings to those requiring them.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “From this week 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 Journey Assist card was launched by TFGM last month to help those who are exempt from wearing a face covering.
The card, which can be downloaded to a device or printed off and used as a flash pass, is available by contacting TFGM’s customer team on 0161 244 1000 or through the TfGM website contact form.
The card is also available in Travelshops across Greater Manchester. Passengers who carry Journey Assistance cards from transport operators can continue to use them also.
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. A supply of spare coverings is available from Travelshops but customers should provide their own where possible.
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.
Passengers who must make essential journeys are still being encouraged to walk or cycle where possible and avoid peak times. Anyone who must use public transport is still being advised to plan their journey in advance, allow extra time to travel and be prepared to wait for the next service if one is full.
For information on public transport across Greater Manchester visit www.tfgm.com, call 0161 244 1000 (7am-8pm, Monday to Friday, and 8am-8pm at weekends and bank holidays) or follow @OfficialTfGM on Twitter.