The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Face masks manda­tory for pub­lic trans­port use

● ‘Leave space for pas­sen­gers who need it most’, urges min­is­ter

- BY DOU­GLAS BAR­RIE

Scot­land’s trans­port sec­re­tary has asked peo­ple to con­tinue lim­it­ing their travel as face masks be­come manda­tory on pub­lic trans­port to­day.

Michael Mathe­son warned peo­ple to “leave space on pub­lic trans­port for those who need it most” amid ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some “ma­jor changes”.

He also urged em­ploy­ers to care­fully man­age their phased re­turn­ing of staff to work with fig­ures sug­gest­ing up to 55% of em­ploy­ees could travel to their nor­mal work­place in this phase.

When Scot­land was in full lock­down, the fig­ure was just 30%.

It could also re­sult in an in­crease in the num­ber of pas­sen­gers on pub­lic trans­port by around a third from cur­rent lev­els of around 225,000 per day.

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.

“Trans­port has a vi­tal role to play in help­ing restart 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.

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

His re­marks come af­ter he an­nounced a fur­ther £46.7 mil­lion of fund­ing for bus op­er­a­tors on Fri­day.

It will cover loss of fare­pay­ing pas­sen­ger rev­enue an­tic­i­pated be­cause of the dis­tanc­ing mea­sures and re­duced ca­pac­ity.

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

“It is there­fore per­haps in­evitable that there will be some cir­cum­stances where the two-me­tre 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.”

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