Facial Coverings on Public Transport

2 years ago Mon 15th Jun 2020

Facial coverings mandatory

From Monday 15th June 2020, the government has made it mandatory for passengers to wear a facial covering on public transport.

What is a facial covering?

A facial covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.

You are responsible for sourcing a facial covering and advice on how to make a facial covering is available here.

How do you wear a facial covering?

It is important to use the facial covering properly:

  1. Wash your hands and face with soap before touching the covering and before wearing the covering
  2. Wash the covering before each daily use
  3. Ensure the facial covering covers your nose, mouth and chin and that any elastics are well placed behind your head
  4. Do not touch the facial covering or face once the facial covering is worn
  5. Wash your hands before you remove the covering, remove the covering without touching your face and then wash your hands and face again after it is removed.

Who is exempt from wearing a facial covering?

Passengers are expected to wear a facial covering to help protect others.

It is important to wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching your face covering. For longer journeys, take more than one face covering and a plastic bag for used face coverings.

be considerate to those who may have hidden disabilities

The requirement to wear a face covering also does not apply if you have a reasonable excuse not to. Reasonable excuses include:

  • if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • if you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • if you need to eat, drink, or take medication you can remove your face covering
  • if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official

In addition, the following people are also exempt:

  • children aged under 11
  • police, community support officers or emergency responders in the course of their duty

The wearing of a facial covering remains optional for bus drivers when in their enclosed cab, which provides a physical barrier between customers and drivers. We’ve also covered the ventilation holes in these screens for enhanced protection. Unless covered by the exemption list, all NCT employees who are travelling as a passenger will have to wear a facial covering.

If I am exempt, how do I let the driver know?

When you board, a notice will remind customers that wearing a facial covering is mandatory to travel on public transport.

If you are exempt, please tell the driver you are exempt as you board. You do not have to explain why you are exempt to our drivers or to other passengers and our drivers won't ask you why either, as we recognise the reasons for being exempt are sensitive and personal.

We have joined other operators by producing Journey Assistance Cards for people who are exempt to show drivers upon boarding, which we encourage you to download and print at home. You can download the full Journey Assistance Cards here. 

What else do I need to know?

This advice forms part of the Department for Transport's Safer Travel Guidance for Passengers, which can be viewed here

FAQ's on the wearing of facial coverings

1. Why has NCT introduced the requirement to wear a facial covering?

The government has introduced the requirement to wear a facial covering on all public transport from Monday 15th June 2020. Like other bus, train and tram operators in England, we are following the government's guideline. 

2. Why are drivers letting people on the bus without facial coverings?

We are following government guidelines and communicating to our customers what the requirements are for facial coverings and who is exempt from wearing one. This is being undertaken at bus stops, on buses through drivers asking people if they are exempt, signage and audio announcements, as well as online through the Safer Travel Guidance we have published, on social media and an email to 120,000 people on our e-newsletter database.

There are legitimate exemptions for not wearing a facial covering, which are outlined above. As 1 in 4 people in the UK have a disability and are exempt from wearing a facial covering, the number of people who are exempt is higher than most people anticipate or expect. These legitimate reasons are very personal and sensitive and it is not appropriate for our drivers to be asking people publicly about their personal circumstances, health conditions and disabilities. 

We also have to be mindful of the risk of wrongly refusing access to a vulnerable person. This is of grave concern to us and goes against our long standing policy of not leaving vulnerable people at the roadside, which a blanket 'don't let people on without a face covering' approach would lead to. 

The government expects high rates of compliance with wearing face coverings and like all rules and regulations, people are expected to follow the law.

The Police have the powers to fine passengers who do not have a legitimate reason (see below) for not wearing a facial covering. Bus drivers are not employed to enforce the law. Operators have been given discretion on how they enforce this requirement and we are following the government guidelines of “engage, explain, encourage”.

3. Why don’t bus drivers have to wear facial coverings?

The government has mandated that passengers are required to wear a facial covering on public transport.

Government guidelines state that the wearing of a facial covering is optional for transport workers and we have provided facial coverings to all of our employees who choose to wear one.

As our bus drivers work in an enclosed cab, this provides a physical barrier between customers and drivers and we’ve also covered the ventilation holes in these screens for enhanced protection.

We have advised our drivers that if they need to leave the cab during the course of their duty, such as to deploy the ramp or to enter the passenger area, they should wear a facial covering.

All of our employees who are travelling as a passenger have to wear a facial covering, unless they meet one of the exemptions.