Metrolink passengers will still be required to wear face coverings after the government lifts restrictions on 19 July - but they won't be mandatory on buses and trains in Greater Manchester.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has announced that passengers on Metrolink – the UK's largest light rail network – will have to continue to wear a face covering, unless exempt, when government restrictions are lifted, to "provide reassurance and protect the most vulnerable".
It comes ahead of the removal of legal measures imposed by government from Monday, which mandate the wearing of a face covering on all public transport in England.
Mr Burnham made the announcement during a joint virtual press conference on Wednesday afternoon (14 July) with the regional mayors of Liverpool, West Yorkshire, North of Tyne and West of England.
The Greater Manchester mayor had been urged to follow London's lead by making mask wearing on Greater Manchester public transport compulsory, after Sadiq Khan confirmed that the requirements for face coverings on buses, trains and trams would remain in the capital beyond 19 July.
The potential penalties for failing to comply
The new rules will be implemented after Mr Burnham asked Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to request they amend the Conditions of Carriage on the Metrolink.
It means failure to comply could see passengers refused travel, escorted off Metrolink services or facing a fine of up to £100. Passengers using bus stations and interchanges will also be required to wear face coverings unless exempt.
A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) says all of the changes will be kept under "continual review" and any alterations will be "led by science and public safety considerations".
While the mayor currently doesn't have the legal powers to enforce the wearing of face coverings on buses and trains, other public transport users as well as people using taxis and private hire vehicles in Greater Manchester will still be "strongly encouraged" to wear face coverings while they are travelling.
Passengers on buses will be "strongly encouraged" to continue wearing face coverings whilst travelling
'The government's decision puts clinically vulnerable unfairly at risk'
"We all want to support our city-region as it reopens, and I believe that needs to be done as safely as possible for all of our residents," said Mr Burnham.
“There are around 200,000 people in Greater Manchester who are clinically vulnerable and I believe the government’s decision to drop the requirement to wear face masks on public transport could put those people more at risk when using public transport, or force them off altogether. I do not believe they should be put in that unfair position.
“I have been listening to people’s concerns and, in response, have decided to continue to require the wearing of face coverings on Metrolink as well as at bus stations and interchanges. To that end I have asked TfGM to make this a requirement for Metrolink and at bus stations and interchanges. I will also be strongly encouraging people to wear them on buses and trains.
“I hope the people of Greater Manchester will understand why I have taken this decision and will continue to wear face coverings on public transport. This is a city-region built on a strong sense of solidarity and doing the right thing by each other, and that will be demonstrated by continuing to wear our face coverings."
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester
Mayor hails those who've kept public transport moving
The GMCA say public transport services and how frequently they run across the region are also still being affected by the ongoing impact of coronavirus, as a result of both positive tests and test and trace requirements.
"The impacts are being managed as best they can be through regular monitoring and service amendments – as well as the ongoing efforts of dedicated transport staff across all modes," a spokesperson said.
Praising the efforts of those who have kept the transport network going throughout the pandemic, Mr Burnham added: "The trams, trains and buses which operate across Greater Manchester are delivered by an exceptionally dedicated group of people who have really gone the extra mile since the pandemic started to help keep the city-region moving.
“Alongside the many other key workers who have played a vital role in tackling this situation, I would like to extend my thanks to them and applaud them for their continuing efforts in keeping us all moving.
“I would also add that by choosing to wear a face covering, unless exempt, you are also playing a part in helping to keep transport staff safe and boosting their confidence as well – so please ensure you wear a face covering on Metrolink and I strongly encourage you to wear one on buses and trams if you can.”
Passengers are also being reminded about the range of other actions - alongside wearing face coverings - they can take to ensure confident and safe travelling for everyone, which are:
- Clean your hands frequently by washing with soap and water or using hand sanitiser
- Use contactless payment if you can
- Where possible open windows to maintain fresh air flow and ventilation.
- Services are likely to be busier - if you can, travel during quieter times (between 10am and 3pm, and after 6pm during the week)
- Consider walking or cycling, particularly for short trips
- Please be kind and consider fellow passengers when travelling on public transport
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