Scots urged to limit travel as face coverings become compulsory on public transport

Scotland’s transport secretary has issued a plea for people to continue limiting their travel as face coverings become mandatory on public transport today.

Bus and train commuters should be given travel flexibility by their bosses to avoid swamping severely-limited public transport, ministers urged today.

The call came as the wearing of face coverings on transport became mandatory in Scotland, as The Scotsman revealed last Wednesday.

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Those flouting the measure face fines of at least £30.

Scotland’s Transport Secretary has issued a plea for people to continue limiting their travel as face masks become mandatory on public transport from Monday. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

An extra 75,000 people a day are expected to travel by public transport in Scotland – a one-third increase – as part of the latest stage of lockdown easing as more staff return to workplaces.

The proportion of people travelling to work is forecast to increase from 30 per cent to 55 per cent of normal.

However, public transport capacity has been reduced to 15 to 20 per cent because of the need for two metre distancing.

Operators have also warned it will not always be possible.

More than three in four Scots said they would only use public transport if distancing was in place, a new poll showed.

The 76 per cent score in the latest weekly survey by official passenger watchdog Transport Focus is the highest since it was launched seven weeks ago.

It is also noticeably above the Britain-wide figure of 67 per cent.

Backing among Scots for hand sanitiser being available on public transport was also at its highest level, at 90 per cent.

Overall, Scots’ confidence in travelling by public transport fell back in the latest survey to 22 per cent from 28 in the previous two weeks, although it had previously dipped as low as 17 per cent.

A separate Survation survey for the consumer group Advice Direct Scotland showed only 29 per cent would be comfortable using public transport.

It came as London City Airport announced that British Airways subsidiary BA CityFlyer woudl resume some domestic flights to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Face coverings are compulsory on all public transport, include the interiors of ferries, along with taxis and private hire vehicles. Train and bus stations are also covered.

Children under five, those with breathing problems and certain physical disabilities are exempt. Drivers in cabs separated by a screen will not have to wear them.

ScotRail is providing free face coverings for a limited period at some of its busiest stations, including Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson appealed to people to continue to limit their travel as much as possible.

As Scotland moves to phase two of its route map out of lockdown, he warned passengers to “leave space on public transport for those who need it most” amid experiencing some “major changes”.

He urged employers to carefully manage their phased returning of staff to work.

Mr Matheson said: “First of all, I want to pay tribute to those transport operators and workers who have kept Scotland’s key workers moving in recent months, during an incredibly testing time.

“We are now in a position to enter phase two of the route map; however, we must do so with great caution, as we cannot risk a resurgence of the virus and wasting all of the good work to date in terms of respecting boundaries and working from home.

“Transport has a vital role to play in helping re-start the economy, but there is a clear and great need for personal and collective responsibility when travelling, especially by public transport.

“It’s also very important to leave space on public transport for those who need it most.

“Passengers who must travel will notice some major changes at our bus and train stations and transport hubs.

“More hand sanitisers, physical distancing measures, posters and information points, and, crucially, you should be wearing a face covering.”

His remarks come after announcing a further £46.7 million of funding available to bus operators on Friday.

It will cover any loss of fare-paying passenger revenue anticipated because of the physical distancing measures and reduced capacity on vehicles.

Mr Matheson added: “Remember, capacity will be around 10 to 20 per cent of normal, even when full services resume.

“It is therefore inevitable there will be some circumstances where the 2m rule is breached, even temporarily.

“That is why all passengers have to wear a face covering.

“I continue to engage directly with business leaders and major employers, and I am encouraging them to embrace these changes which can help us all adapt to a new working and business environment.

“We are increasing the frequency of public transport, but without a significant reduction in demand, the plan won’t work.”

The minister also praised the work of councils in planning more space for walkers and cyclists by widening pavements and creating new bike lanes.

He said: “I am pleased that we are already seeing some real ambition from local authorities and partners in terms of redesigning the landscape and infrastructure around our towns and cities, supported by Scottish Government funding, and I look forward to seeing more of these measures being rolled out over the coming weeks and months.”

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