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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