face coverings on buses

2 months ago Mon 11th May 2020

Updated Monday 15 June

­­From Monday 15 June, you must wear a face covering when travelling on public transport.

This means it is a legal requirement for anyone travelling on our buses to wear a face covering for the duration of their journey.

As more people return to work, the issue of social distancing is more important than ever. Whilst we are managing capacity to allow full social distancing in Reading, public transport does not always lend itself to social distancing, so from 11 May the Government encouraged passengers to wear a face covering, and from 15 June has changed that to a requirement throughout England.

There are some exemptions to the requirement listed below.

why face coverings?

The use of face masks and face coverings has been an issue of contention since the beginning of the outbreak. Current Public Health England advice has not changed – masks to prevent the wearer from catching the virus are only effective in clinical settings when coupled with other Personal Protective Equipment and stringent hygiene measures.

However, by wearing a face covering you might reduce the potential to infect others, especially as you may not know that you are infected. This will allow us all greater freedom whilst limiting the spread of the virus.

You can make face coverings at home; the key thing is it should cover your mouth and nose. You can find guidance on how to do this on the Government website.

The most important guidance continues to be to wash your hands regularly and avoid travelling unless you need to.

who is exempt?

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to or are exempt on other grounds - these include the following:

  • not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask such as respiratory illness
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • to eat or drink, but only if you need to and replace your face covering as soon as possible
  • to take medication
  • if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
  • a child who is under the age of 11
  • any employee of the operator, or anyone contracted to provide a service on behalf of the operator who is performing their duty - although as mentioned above, reasonable alternative measures should be in place unless not possible to do so.
  • a member of the emergency services who are performing their duties

Please remember that there may be people on the list above who are exempt from wearing a face covering. Not all reasons are visible so please be mindful of others who may not be wearing a mask for a legitimate reason. 

Operators such as ourselves have been given discretion on how they enforce the new requirement to wear a face covering with the preferred method being “engage, explain, encourage”. Our drivers are not police officers and so are not there to enforce the law, but by following the Government guidelines, we are trying to engage people to explain the new law and then encourage them to wear face coverings in future. 

The Police have the powers to fine passengers who do not have a legitimate reason for not wearing a facial covering, but again, this is not for the driver to decide and we do not want to put our drivers in potential conflict situations.

We also want to make sure that all vulnerably people are easily able to use our services without having to be interrogated each time they get on the bus. The Government, and ourselves, hope that there will be a high level of compliance with the new legislation by those who can wear a face covering. This is the best way that we can all help those that can't wear a face covering to stay safe and healthy.

why isn't the driver wearing one?

Our drivers are not required to wear face coverings because we have alternative measures in place, such as the fixed screen around the cab. The Government guidelines have stated that they recommend facial coverings for workers who interact with the public, but not if you have other measure in place - such as our screens.

Face coverings can also cause safety and communication issues. We have given our drivers supplies to wear when getting on and off the bus, and at other times if they want to as we know some drivers appreciate being able to wear a face covering too.

advice on using a face covering

It is important to use the facial covering properly, otherwise its effectiveness is reduced. You should follow the advice from the Department for Transport's Safer Travel Guidance for Passengers - the full guidance can be found here:

  1. Wash your hands and face with soap before touching your face covering
  2. Wash your face covering before each daily use (if using a reusable one)
  3. Ensure your facial covering covers your nose, mouth and chin and that any elastic is well placed behind your head
  4. Do not touch your face covering or your face once you have put it on
  5. Wash your hands before you remove your face covering, remove it without touching your face, and then wash your hands and your face.