Government will keep its advice to avoid public transport under review

The Government will keep its advice that people should only use public transport if there is no other alternative under review, a minister has said.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that people can use public transport if they are not able to walk or cycle or use private transport but should wear a mask and take other mitigating measures.

His comments come after transport giant FirstGroup had urged the Government to stop encouraging people to avoid trains and buses.

Despite coronavirus lockdown restrictions easing in recent weeks, the Department for Transport continues to tell people to “stay off public transport if they can” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Mr Dowden told a Downing Street briefing on Thursday that the Government will lift more lockdown measures if it is safe to do so.

When asked why the advice to avoid using public transport was still in force when other restrictions were being lifted such as pubs opening again, Mr Dowden said that they were all still subject to social distancing measures.

He added: “The position in respect of pubs and indeed in respect of public transport is that you should social distance in respect of them so they are both subject to that.

“Throughout the reopening, we are seeking to minimise risk, do so in a safe way and open up as much as we possibly can.

“So we are saying to people it is better to walk or cycle, indeed it is very good for your public health.

“But if you are not able to do those things, if you are not able to use private transport, cars, then you can use public transport.

“That’s just essentially a way to minimise risk of transmission. Of course, as the numbers continue to fall, we keep all of these things under review.

“We will take further measures if it is safe to do so.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted that compliance with using masks on public transport was at nearly 90%.

He tweeted: “REMINDER: unless exempt, wearing a face-covering is MANDATORY on public transport.

“Compliance rate near 90% with @BTP reminding 18,037 passengers, 817 ‘leave network’ directions & 21 fixed penalties notices issued + @TfL stopped 3,000 from getting on buses. Let’s protect everyone.”

FirstGroup Chief executive Matthew Gregory claimed it is time to “move away” from appealing to passengers not to use public transport for non-essential journeys.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Gregory said: “Face coverings are now mandatory on public transport and I think with that we can change the message to the fact that public transportation is safe.

“We’ve enhanced the cleaning, we’ve enhanced the disinfectant, we’ve dealt with social distancing properly to try and avoid crowding.

“We’ve made this case to Government to start moving away from that avoiding public transport (message) because we have to get the economy moving again, people want to travel again and move again.

“If we’re revitalising the hospitality industry, then we want people to go on public transportation, we don’t want them getting in their cars and having congestion and air pollution.

“It was right at the time, but it is time now to move away from that messaging to something more that promotes the safe use of public transport.”

Latest figures show that road traffic has returned to 83% of pre-lockdown levels, but train use across Britain and bus use outside London is at 16% and 29% respectively.

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