Face coverings will be mandatory on trams but not buses
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham held a virtual press conference last night (Wednesday 14 July) to confirm that the requirement to wear masks and face coverings on the Metrolink would continue to be required on the tram after 19 July.
Manchester Airport will also require visitors to wear face coverings after 19 July.
The announcement follows the Government's decision to remove the legal obligation to wear a face-covering on all public transport in England after 19 July.
This is a city-region built on a strong sense of solidarity and doing the right thing by each other, and that will be demonstrated by continuing to wear our face coverings
The new Metrolink rules will be implemented from Monday, following the Mayor’s decision to contact Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to request they amend the Conditions of Carriage on Metrolink. Failure to comply with the new Conditions of Carriage could see passengers refused travel, escorted off Metrolink services - or facing a fine of up to £100. Passengers using bus stations and interchanges will also be required to wear face coverings unless exempt.
According to the mayor's office, all of the changes will be kept under continual review and any changes will be led by science and public safety considerations. Any medical exemptions will still be valid after 19 July.
The effect of COVID on Manchester public transport
The ongoing impact of COVID is affecting the delivery of public transport services and frequencies across Greater Manchester as a result of both positive tests and test and trace requirements impacting staff availability.
The mayor only has the power to make masks mandatory on the tram but not buses or other forms of public transport, including taxis. However each individual bus company (or equivalent) can make it a condition of service that passengers wear masks. The Office of National Statistics has reported that bus drivers are among the top professions with an increased risk of dying from COVID.
Mask-wearing is currently referred to as part of the conditions of carriage for Stagecoach but it is not known if they will be updated after 19 July. First Buses does not refer to masks or face coverings in its conditions of carriage.
The virtual press conference was held with the mayors of Liverpool, West Yorkshire, North of Tyne, Sheffield and the West of England.
The mayors issued a joint statement which read: "As Metro Mayors collectively representing 10 million people, we disagree with the Government’s decision to remove the requirement to wear face coverings on public transport. We believe this puts people who are clinically extremely vulnerable in an unfair position and could affect their ability to travel.
"We call on the Government to reverse their decision.
"In the interim, we will use the limited powers we have to require the wearing of face coverings where we can, despite the practical challenges of that.
"We don’t have the same powers as the Mayor of London over the whole of the public transport system and believe this issue illustrates the need for cities outside of London to have more power over public transport."
🗣️”I will ask people to put themselves in the shoes of somebody who is going by bus to have chemotherapy. I will ask people to put themselves in the shoes of somebody who has a compromised immune system.”
Andy discusses wearing masks beyond 19 July
— Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham (@MayorofGM) July 6, 2021
A change of policy
The Mayor had previously indicated that wearing masks on public transport would be encouraged but not enforced. At an earlier press conference he said: “Speaking with the other leaders in Greater Manchester this morning, we've agreed that the right approach is to continue to strongly encourage the wearing of face coverings on public transport in Greater Manchester on our trams, trains and buses."
“We could only enforce here in relation to our tram system. And the reality is, it will be very difficult to do that when there is a different message at a national level. We feel that we are a recipe for confusion, potential tension, [it will] be very difficult for people working on the transport system to enforce and will put staff in a very difficult position. So we are saying, we will strongly encourage rather than force, but we will also seek to make sure we refresh the messaging about why it's important to wear a face covering."
The change in policy came about after discussions with the other metro mayors and following Sadiq Khan's announcement that mask-wearing would continue on TFL.
Statement from Andy Burnham
Andy Burham issued a statement in support of his decision that read: "We all want to support our city-region as it reopens, and I believe that needs to be done as safely as possible for all of our residents.
“There are around 200,000 people in Greater Manchester who are clinically vulnerable and I believe the Government’s decision to drop the requirement to wear face masks on public transport could put those people more at risk when using public transport, or force them off altogether. I do not believe they should be put in that unfair position.
“I have been listening to people’s concerns and, in response, have decided to continue to require the wearing of face coverings on Metrolink as well as at bus stations and interchanges. To that end, I have asked TfGM to make this a requirement for Metrolink and at bus stations and interchanges. I will also be strongly encouraging people to wear them on buses and trains.
“I hope the people of Greater Manchester will understand why I have taken this decision and will continue to wear face coverings on public transport. This is a city-region built on a strong sense of solidarity and doing the right thing by each other, and that will be demonstrated by continuing to wear our face coverings.”
Travel safely on public transport during the ongoing pandemic
Alongside the requirement for passengers to wear a face covering on the Metrolink network and at bus stations and interchanges, and the strong encouragement for people to wear them on buses and trains, there are a range of other actions passengers can take to ensure everyone can travel with confidence:
- Clean your hands frequently by washing with soap and water or using hand sanitiser
- Use contactless payment if you can
- Where possible open windows to maintain fresh air flow and ventilation.
- Services are likely to be busier - if you can, travel during quieter times (between 10am and 3pm, and after 6pm during the week)
- Consider walking or cycling, particularly for short trips
- Please be kind and consider fellow passengers when travelling on public transport
To see the latest government guidance please visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirusor visit TfGM.com for the latest travel information and advice.
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