Could mandatory mask-wearing replace social distancing on public transport, thus increasing capacity?

yorkie

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I was very alarmed to read this on the CrossCountry website:

https://www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk/coronavirus#face-covering-faqs
XC Face covering FAQs said:
Q: Are you doing this just to reduce the need for social distancing?
No. We are doing this to further reduce the risk of infection. Used properly, face coverings can help prevent the spread of the disease. Social distancing and good hand hygiene are still very important.
This is at odds with the World Health Organisation guidelines and the policy of sensible train operators elsewhere, such as Swiss Railways.

https://www.who.int/emergencies/dis...wers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-and-masks
for areas of widespread transmission, with limited capacity for implementing control measures and especially in settings where physical distancing of at least 1 metre is not possible – such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments – WHO advises governments to encourage the general public to use non-medical fabric masks.
I do not believe it is appropriate or proportionate to mandate the use of masks in addition to social distancing on trains.

I believe that social distancing on trains must be abolished shortly, and that mandating mask wearing must be instead of social distancing.

We now have a situation where many shops and businesses are reopening; in a couple of weeks the leisure and tourism industry is expected to open, including hotels, restaurants and pubs. This will clearly require an increase in available capacity of public transport.

Government advice regarding public transport can be found at:

Key extracts include:
Consider all other forms of transport before using public transport.

If you can:
  • travel at off-peak times
  • use quieter stations and stops – get off a stop early if it’s less busy
  • keep changes to a minimum, for example, between bus and train
  • walk for more of your journey, for example the first or last mile
  • book your tickets online in advance or pay by contactless
Where possible, keep a 2 metre distance from others during your journey. If you can’t keep a suitable distance from others, you should:
  • avoid physical contact
  • try to face away from other people
  • keep the time you spend near others as short as possible
However some train companies attempt to deter people from travelling in accordance with these guidelines; I was particularly alarmed to read this from Northern:

Non-essential shops are set to start to reopen from today, however this does not mean that non-essential journeys should be made by train.
The reality is that passengers absolutely can use public transport, including trains operated by Northern, in line with Government guidelines; Northern do not have the powers to impose additional restrictions.

But clearly the current situation of deterring the use of public transport is unsustainable; with more and more businesses reopening, we cannot have a situation where rogue train companies try to tell passengers who are unable to make their journey by other means of transport, that they should stay at home and not make those journeys.

I therefore believe that very soon it an announcement should be made the wearing of masks replaces the need for social distancing on trains. What do others think?

Note: this thread is not intended to discuss the wearing of masks generally, nor proposals to reduce the social distancing guidelines from 2m to 1m (or abolish them entirely); we do have other threads for these purposes. A list of relevant threads is below:

 
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mmh

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I therefore believe that very soon it an announcement should be made the wearing of masks replaces the need for social distancing on trains. What do others think?
I agree, but I'm not holding out much hope when the Government has failed to take the lead in the most obvious and simple ways. The messaging should be being dictated by the Department for Transport, not left to individual companies to make up resulting in mixed messaging and the sort of unjustified misinformation from CrossCountry you've quoted. It's quite shameful really. A conspiracy theorist might suggest it must be deliberate, but why? It's difficult to fathom either way.
 

ep_

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I therefore believe that very soon it an announcement should be made the wearing of masks replaces the need for social distancing on trains. What do others think?
I can only hope that is the plan, and that the government is just giving it some time so as to not ‘spook’ people by making both changes at once. Otherwise, a waste of time.
 

HSTEd

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Whats the point of increasing capacity of public transport when we have nowhere to go.
 

Baxenden Bank

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It would be nice to think that there is a plan, a strategy, a logical process. Masks ought to be one way out of the capacity problem but, as has been seen at demonstrations over the past couple of weeks and by the scenes at shops this week, people (in a generalising way) are simply incapable of following distancing advice, and mask wearing advice.

Regarding the XC quote, the logical step to minimise the risk of transmission would be to ban all passengers. Whether you then bothered to run the trains would be a matter of policy for ministers to decide!
 

BJames

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Whats the point of increasing capacity of public transport when we have nowhere to go.
I have places to go. Shops, meet friends in parks/gardens elsewhere other than my home town. Ideally more things once restrictions start being released on 4th July. Maybe this is a good time to add in "we're reducing social distancing to 1 metre" and on transport "be aware of others" or "mandatory face coverings required on our services: it may not always be possible to keep your distance".


In answer to yorkie's question I'm quite alarmed by some of those things you've mentioned, especially northern's take on it. I'm not the biggest fan of mandatory face coverings but I am happy to support it if it means we can get capacity back to above 60% rather than the pathetic 15% or thereabouts that we've supposedly got now with distancing.

The government must be clearer on why we are using face coverings on transport - if it's to reduce the risk of infection, why haven't we also introduced them in all indoor spaces? Why only transport? We need to stop pretending that social distancing on transport can work while reopening the economy - it can't. And if they can't justify masks being good enough to stop social distancing then I don't see how they're effective enough at all to make mandatory in the first place.
 

Bletchleyite

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I was certainly of the impression that masks would be used for the purpose @yorkie suggests, yes, namely to allow public transport to operate without distancing, or at least to 50% capacity i.e. one person per pair of seats, or potentially 3 across in a 3+2 layout.
 
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YorksDMU

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I was on the train between Beverley and Hull both Monday and yesterday afternoon for shopping. I wore my mask and was quite happy with it, but to see all those seats taped out of use was very irritating, and come that first weekend in July those seats had better be made available as much as possible. Passengers were having to stand in the gangway the trains were so full.
Northern, I guess it has to be remembered though, are an Operator Of Last Resort, so I suppose they will be especially draconian and uninterested in opening up the trains, properly, to passengers. That doesn’t excuse them from behaving as they are.
But I will continue to use the trains. I’m intending to travel to York either Friday or Saturday - more shopping. So let’s have as many seats made available for passengers with their masks on. I’ll accept that trade off for a couple of months and see how it all pans out.
 

yorkie

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Whats the point of increasing capacity of public transport when we have nowhere to go.
I have loads of places to go, things to do, and people to see.

Also in a couple of weeks' time, the leisure and tourism industry is expected to reopen, including hotels, restaurants and pubs.
 

alex397

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I have loads of places to go, things to do, and people to see.

Also in a couple of weeks' time, the leisure and tourism industry is expected to reopen, including hotels, restaurants and pubs.
Yes, there is certainly more reason for people to travel around now.
Many may now be finally trying to visit friends or family who they haven’t seen for a long time, for example.
And of course, the many people who are now back at work.
 

geoffk

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Agree with what's being said. Who is driving this, the RMT/ASLEF, the Treasury? The latter have never been a big fan of railways and will no doubt be looking with interest at high rail support costs combined with low passenger numbers.
 

furlong

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The effect of masks is long debated - but even their advocates agree that they make only a marginal difference. As such the consideration of their use has to remain independent of consideration of the distance you are apart from someone. The current government line seems to reflect this by refusing to connect the two. Whether you are trying to keep 2m or 1m away from someone, the advocates of masks would say a mask still reduces any transmission and is therefore beneficial. Moving from 2m to 1m closer to a person shedding the virus would increase your risk of coming into contact with it mask or no mask, and any debated benefit of masks is unlikely to cancel out the additional risk.

I think the 2m vs 1m vs 'leave people to use their own common sense' debate is essentially formulated around the absolute risk of someone shedding the virus in sufficient quantities actually being present - after you've made sure that people with symptoms are not out and about. If you estimate how many instances of transmission by people without symptoms occur in the country each day and in what settings (hospital, household, outdoors, transport etc.) and over what contact time periods, a healthy individual doing the calculation for themselves would likely decide the odds of them being involved in a meaningful transmission event on public transport now are essentially zero. But the government worries about the total numbers and the difficulties of detecting the remaining rare spreading events and intervening to stop further spreading, leading to its continued caution. Analogy - fatalities from car crashes. You can predict there'll be a certain number every week, but people still drive as they judge the odds of one involving them are negligible and so you publish statistics and give people the freedom of choice to make that decision themselves as they see fit. Public transport should now be the same - no restrictions, masks optional, but common sense and common courtesy (e.g. allowing people to put a bag on a seat to indicate 'I don't want anyone to sit next to me at the moment please').
 

yorkie

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.... a healthy individual doing the calculation for themselves would likely decide the odds of them being involved in a meaningful transmission event on public transport now are essentially zero....
Agreed; this is my conclusion too.
Public transport should now be the same - no restrictions, masks optional, but common sense and common courtesy (e.g. allowing people to put a bag on a seat to indicate 'I don't want anyone to sit next to me at the moment please').
I totally agree, though I do not think that such an approach will be adopted soon, even though it should be.

I believe the Government won't want there to be no restrictions and masks merely optional as they will want to be seen to be doing something.

From my point of view, if they have to be seen to be doing something, and it's either mandating marks or enforcing the current social distancing madness, I'd far rather mandate the use of masks. Either way, the current situation is absolute madness.
 

TT-ONR-NRN

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I’m happy to wear masks as a rule, but for god’s sake Boris, tell the public those without a car can use trains again. Are you saying those who don’t drive should forfeit trips to visit friends or nice places just because they have no car?!
 

Bletchleyite

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I have loads of places to go, things to do, and people to see.

Also in a couple of weeks' time, the leisure and tourism industry is expected to reopen, including hotels, restaurants and pubs.
In the last 3 weeks (when I've had a decent amount of spare time on my hands) I've spent about £400 on diesel. If you like the outdoors, there are plenty of places to go. The railway would have had all of that (and probably more; I'll happily day trip far further by train than car, for instance the Lake District from MK is too long a day trip by car but I've done it by train before and would again) if they hadn't been telling me to get lost.

I had hoped the mask thing would result in that being permitted (by the railway) or even welcomed...but instead I'm going on another long trip tomorrow by car. That's another £80 or so the railway has not received.
 

mmh

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The effect of masks is long debated - but even their advocates agree that they make only a marginal difference.
However some advocates of them do insist they make a huge difference, and equate not wearing them to actively killing people. I think this is melodramatic unsupported hysteria, but it is a view that has been expressed on the forum.

Those extreme advocates though are inadvertently making the case for ditching social distancing on trains - if they are so effective, there cannot be a reasonable need for distancing as well.
 

yorkie

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I had hoped the mask thing would result in that being permitted (by the railway) or even welcomed..
Just to be clear, it is absolutely permitted (as per the government guidelines linked to above) however you are right it is not welcomed by train companies who supply messages to deter passengers, which are at odds with Government guidelines.
 

mmh

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In the last 3 weeks (when I've had a decent amount of spare time on my hands) I've spent about £400 on diesel. If you like the outdoors, there are plenty of places to go. The railway would have had all of that (and probably more; I'll happily day trip far further by train than car, for instance the Lake District from MK is too long a day trip by car but I've done it by train before and would again) if they hadn't been telling me to get lost.

I had hoped the mask thing would result in that being permitted (by the railway) or even welcomed...but instead I'm going on another long trip tomorrow by car. That's another £80 or so the railway has not received.
But you could go by train if you really wanted to, there's nothing to stop you from doing so in England other than if you want to avoid mask wearing and distancing. Nobody will ask if your journey is essential, if they were to you could just reply "yes, it is."
 

geoffk

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If I go into my local station ticket office and ask for a Wayfarer or Rover ticket, will there be a problem? I can always buy one on-line.
 

yorkie

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If I go into my local station ticket office and ask for a Wayfarer or Rover ticket, will there be a problem? I can always buy one on-line.
I don't see how there could be a problem.
I’m happy to wear masks as a rule, but for god’s sake Boris, tell the public those without a car can use trains again. Are you saying those who don’t drive should forfeit trips to visit friends or nice places just because they have no car?!
Read my opening post again; I linked to the Government guidance. There is nothing in the guidance that says those without a car should not use trains. The guidance merely asks for other modes to be considered. Clearly if you do not have a car, you cannot consider going by car.

Some rogue train companies, such as Northern Rail (to name one prominent example), refuse to adopt Government guidance and instead send out messages that contradict this, and deter people further from travelling by train. However they cannot refuse to allow people to travel in accordance with Government guidance. I personally am travelling in accordance with relevant legislation and Government guidance and that's all we need to do.

I'm confident that one day the likes of Northern will be reigned in and will adopt the official Government guidance, but I have no doubt they'll be misleading people for as long as they think they can get away with it.
 
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Huntergreed

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Yes - mask-wearing should absolutely negate the need for any need for social (or physical in Scotland) distancing on public transport.

The fact that the government are even considering trying to maintain social distancing on public transport whilst trying to reopen the economy is quite literally insanity. There's no way on earth that social distancing in the context of public transport can continue for any longer than another month (by 4th July, many businesses will open and realise that this rule is potentially the reason why they may be forced to close).

In my personal opinion, there should be nothing made mandatory on public transport, but rather an approach of common sense prevails. If there's someone sat in a seat and a free seat somewhere else, then don't sit next to someone, even if this means the seat you get isn't particularly favourable. I think given the option a lot of people would choose to wear masks anyway. However, I know for a fact the government won't lift restrictions on public transport fully. They are going to have no choice but to scrap social distancing on public transport within a month in my view, and in order to not make people feel like it is dangerous (even when it isn't), I feel they will keep the mandatory masks rule. Whilst I personally would much rather this rule was lifted, I would much rather it was kept in place and I was able to use the transport network freely again than they lifted it and social distancing had to be retained. It's most definitely the lesser of two evils and I don't mind putting up with it for now , provided it's only in the short term.
 

sheff1

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I don't see how there could be a problem.
Depends whether their local statiion is Sheffield !

As to your question in the OP, I actually thought that was given as the rationale for compulsory mask-wearing when it was first mooted. In practice it's introduction has resulted, round here at least, in the blocking off of seats on trains, buses and trams thus reducing capacity from what it was when masks were not compulsory.
 

al78

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Whats the point of increasing capacity of public transport when we have nowhere to go.
I can think of places to go, for example walking linear sections of the South Downs Way between stations, or visiting family.
 

NorthOxonian

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If I go into my local station ticket office and ask for a Wayfarer or Rover ticket, will there be a problem? I can always buy one on-line.
No - with almost every Wayfarer/Rover, there are at least some journeys cheaper than the through ticket, so you could just be making an essential journey but choosing the cheapest option.

That said if you feel nervous about being challenged, I'd buy online. But I'm not aware of this being an option for most rovers outside GWR-land?
 

yorkie

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No - with almost every Wayfarer/Rover, there are at least some journeys cheaper than the through ticket, so you could just be making an essential journey but choosing the cheapest option.
I don't know what you're getting at here; the Government guidance is very clear. There is no concept of an "essential journey" other than customers are asked to consider other methods of transport.

Some train companies use the term "essential journey" to put people off and muddy the waters, but providing people are complying with relevant legislation and Government guidelines, there is no issue at all.

Even before the latest set of easements, journeys have been permissable to meet friends and family and for mental and physical wellbeing for several weeks now (these are all "essential" activities in my opinion anyway)
 

NorthOxonian

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I don't know what you're getting at here; the Government guidance is very clear. There is no concept of an "essential journey" other than customers are asked to consider other methods of transport.
I agree but it's possible that ticket sales may question me and not agree about whether leisure travel is allowed. If I have to travel, even for leisure, I would at least make it seem like I'm making an "essential journey". While the current restrictions are in place I'd be scared of saying that I'm voluntarily travelling via public transport.
 

yorkie

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I agree but it's possible that ticket sales may question me and not agree about whether leisure travel is allowed. If I have to travel, even for leisure, I would at least make it seem like I'm making an "essential journey". While the current restrictions are in place I'd be scared of saying that I'm voluntarily travelling via public transport.
If questioned I'd simply state I was travelling in line with Government guidelines, but the chances of being questioned are very slim.
 

YorksDMU

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When I travelled to Hull on both Monday and Tuesday I used the TVM on Beverley station and avoided the ticket office, so no problems about being asked the nature of my journey. Also, at the ticket check, on Hull station, I simply showed my ticket and disabled persons railcard, and no questions were asked about my journey. Indeed the staff were very pleasant and friendly.
 

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