COVID-19: Trains, planes and buses can have their own face mask rules after 19 July, transport secretary says | UK News

COVID-19: Trains, planes and buses can have their own face mask rules after 19 July, transport secretary says | UK News

The transport secretary has told MPs he is “very relaxed” about airlines, train firms and bus operators imposing their own COVID-related rules, including on wearing face masks, beyond 19 July.

Speaking during a Transport Committee evidence session, Grant Shapps said individual companies could implement travel conditions beyond the government’s final stage of lockdown easing if they so wished.

But he confirmed that he will not be issuing any “blanket instructions” to companies compelling them to keep COVID safety measures in place.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there is a 'rigorous process' to hire people in government.
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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says he is ‘relaxed’ if operators want to introduce their own rules on train carriages

Mr Shapps also did not deny that the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, could mandate the wearing of coverings on the London Underground if he so wished.

On Monday at a Downing Street news conference, Boris Johnson announced there will be no more legal requirement on wearing face masks in shops or on public transport beyond the final stage of lockdown easing.

Some unions and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have suggested mask wearing should remain mandatory on modes of transport to keep people safe.

But Mr Shapps defended the government’s plans to remove the legal requirement to use a mask and to instead request people use “common sense and personal responsibility” as “entirely sensible”.

“So we are shifting to this next phase where people use common sense and personal responsibility to decide these things and I think that is actually a sensible way forwards,” he told MPs at the committee hearing.

“If organisations require it to be a condition of carriage then I am very relaxed about that and it is up to them to do.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan visits Nine Elms station on the Northern Line extension to see the ticket hall and platforms as work is completed in south London on the new underground line which is due to open in autumn this year. Picture date: Friday May 21, 2021.
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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he is ‘looking at all options’ when it comes to keeping transport safe following the repeal of COVID restrictions

Asked by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw if this means his party colleague Mr Khan could request the use of masks on the Transport for London (TfL) network, the transport secretary said: “If he wants to implement a condition of a carriage of that nature then that is definitely a discussion. I am very relaxed about that.

“The most important thing is, as you rightly said at the beginning, to reassure people that it is rightly safe to travel – which it is.”

Mr Khan has said his team are “looking at all options regarding face masks” to ensure the capital’s transport network remains safe when restrictions ease.

On Tuesday, he tweeted: “Giving Londoners confidence to travel on the public transport network is key to our economic recovery.

“We’re looking at all options regarding face masks – it’s essential public transport remains safe for Londoners, commuters and staff.”

But Mr Shapps confirmed he is not planning on issuing blanket instructions to train companies and has not currently been approached by any operators wanting to go further than the government’s plan for beyond the final stage of easing restrictions.

“I am not planning to issue any blanket instructions to the train operating companies because they are so different depending on the routes across the country,” he said.

The transport secretary also suggested that it would be “sensible” to wear a mask on busy trains.

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‘Mask wearing is extremely valuable’

Mr Shapps said: “Look, if you are travelling – and I travel on all types of transport, on all types of trains – if you are travelling on the underground and it is pretty packed then wearing a face covering may well be helpful and increase confidence.”

“And standing right next to somebody, I think that is something that I’d want to do and transport operators are free to require it.”

He added: “On the other hand, if you are travelling on a pretty empty carriage at an unpopular time of day to travel for three hours on a mainline or something, then it is pretty pointless in that circumstance to be potentially sat there on your own wearing a mask.”





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