Public transport chiefs and South Yorkshire Police have joined forces to urge passengers to wear a face covering when travelling by bus, tram or train, as more people return to work and leisure activities.
Since Monday 15 June, the government has required everyone using public transport to wear a face covering, unless they have an exemption for health, age or equality reasons. From today (Friday 24 July), the requirement was extended to cover transport hubs, so face coverings must also be worn at stations and interchanges.
Though the majority of passengers are playing their part by following the rules – to help to keep themselves and others safe - drivers and customers have raised concerns that some people are refusing to wear a face covering.
South Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), First South Yorkshire, Stagecoach Bus and Stagecoach Supertram are together reiterating the message that it is a legal requirement to wear a face covering when using the public transport network.
Local PCSOs have been on South Yorkshire’s network, undertaking spot checks and providing advice on the new ruling.
Chief Inspector Lydia Lynskey, from South Yorkshire Police said: “We have seen an incredible amount of support from people in South Yorkshire over the last few months, and as we progress through the region’s Covid-19 recovery, it’s encouraging to see more people getting back to normality.
“The wearing of a face covering on public transport is a legal requirement, and it has been introduced to keep yourself, drivers and other passengers safe.
“Officers have increased patrols on public transport and we do carry out spot checks to evaluate the level of compliance. Our officers are supporting drivers and will encourage all passengers to wear a face covering. Anyone who refuses will be asked to disembark and could be issued with a fine, not only by us but also by other authorised parties.
“As police, protecting the public is our number one priority, but everyone has their part to play in protecting others and preventing further spread of the virus.”
SYPTE’s Director of Customer Service, Tim Taylor, said: “As more people across our region return to work, to social activities and to school in the coming weeks, it is going to become even more important that everyone plays their part to keep themselves and others safe.
“Together with operators and the police, we are providing reassurance to people travelling and working on the transport network, by reminding passengers of their responsibility to wear a face covering.
“We are working closely with Government to increase services in a safe and controlled manner, and to boost people’s confidence in public transport. Wearing face coverings to help prevent the spread of coronavirus is important, to protect us all, as we progress our region’s recovery from the pandemic.”
Bus and tram operators, First South Yorkshire, Stagecoach Bus and Supertram, have introduced a raft of safety measures including limiting capacity, socially distanced seating layouts, additional cleaning processes and upgrading App functions to track buses and show how many people are travelling on each bus all with the intention of keeping drivers and travelling customers safe whilst we all work through the pandemic.
Rob Hughes, Operations Director at First South Yorkshire said; ”I am receiving regular reports from our drivers who are stating that most people are staying safe and adhering to the new rule but there is a minority of people who are choosing to ignore it and are refusing to wear a face covering.
“We are working closely with the Police and SYPTE to relay this message that the ruling is there to protect the safety of our drivers and everyone travelling on the bus. It is irresponsible behaviour not to wear a face covering unless a person is exempt, and people are breaking the law which could result in a heavy fine being issued for noncompliance.”
Phil Medlicott, Managing Director for Stagecoach Yorkshire, said “As more people return to work and leisure and hospitality services open up across the region, we're proud to be continuing to play a crucial role in making sure we can connect people with the places they need to be.
“We have extensive additional safety measures in place so our services are fully Covid-19 secure, but we also need customers to follow the new rules to keep everybody safe. Our experience is that the vast majority of passengers have been doing the right thing, however it is crucially important that people understand that they have a legal responsibility to wear a face covering and refusal to do so may incur a fine from the police.”
Tim Bilby, Managing Director at Stagecoach Supertram said; “We have undertaken a huge amount of work to ensure the safety of our customers and staff, but the use of face coverings is the simple step people can take themselves to help, and remember it is now a legal requirement unless an exemption applies.
“For those small number of people who continue not to wear one, or wear it without covering their nose and mouth, please remember this is about protecting everyone else in our communities, not just yourself. Please do the right thing and cover up.”
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.
It is strongly recommended that staff working at stations and interchanges also wear a face covering when in enclosed public spaces or in close proximity to members of the public.