Government urged to avoid ‘stigma’ around buses and trains

Any relaxation of requirements for face coverings and social distancing in England from June 21 must apply to public transport to avoid it facing a “stigma”, an industry body has claimed.

Tom Bartosak-Harlow, from the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), said “we need to see public transport moving at the same pace as the rest of the country”.

He told the PA news agency: “If you no longer have to wear a face covering in certain situations such as hospitality and retail but you do on public transport, we think that would undermine confidence in public transport.”

Any disparity would lead to a perception that public transport is “something to be avoided” because of “the stigma that that attaches”, Mr Bartosak-Harlow said.

“If people have this view that going on a bus or a coach carries a greater risk of catching Covid, in the longer term that will encourage people to use their car.

“We’re going to need that additional capacity if you ease restrictions, as we’re going to see more people travelling.”

Currently, double decker buses can only operate at around 60-80% of their full capacity because passengers cannot stand or use seats that do not face forwards.

The Rail Delivery Group said trains have capacity for around 45-55% of passengers at pre-coronavirus levels with the 1m plus rule, which allows people to be 1m apart if additional steps are taken to reduce risk.

Boris Johnson plans to end all legal coronavirus restrictions on June 21, although there have been calls for a delay due to the spread of the Indian variant.