Compulsory mask rule 'unenforceable' warn Lothian Buses drivers

Wearing a face covering on public transport became compulsory today.

By Conor Matchett
Monday, 22nd June 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd June 2020, 12:32 pm
Bus drivers have raised concerns around the implementation of the compulsory face masks on public transport rule in Scotland.
Bus drivers have raised concerns around the implementation of the compulsory face masks on public transport rule in Scotland.

Lothian Bus drivers have been told to “not engage” with passengers who choose not to wear a face masks, raising concerns that the rules around compulsory face coverings on public transport are unenforceable.

One driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said drivers were now the frontline of the battle against Covid-19 given the new rules.

He said drivers were told to simply “not engage” with customers without face masks and with other passengers who might complain about those without face masks.

He said the directive from the company, alongside a lack of signage about the new rules, meant they were essentially unenforceable, however Lothian Buses said it was not the job of their drivers to enforce exemptions.

The driver added: “Lothian Buses have told us not to engage with passengers who come on without masks or passengers who complain.

“It is putting drivers on the frontline. It is the driver who is going to get it in the neck, especially as all they are saying is to not engage.

“What happens if a passenger comes down and asks us why we are letting customers on without masks?

“It is left to us to explain, there should be some signage.”

Shadow health minister for the Scottish Conservatives, Miles Briggs MSP, echoed the driver’s concerns, calling for signage to be installed in buses.

He said: “Lothian Buses’ directors must look in to putting up signs on buses, to make it clear to people that face covering should be used on buses.

“Guidance on face coverings being worn on public transport is there to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission in the community as lockdown restrictions are eased.

“We all have a collective responsibility to take steps to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and face coverings are an important measure for restricting transmission of the virus.”

A spokesman for Lothian Buses said: “In an exceptionally challenging operational climate Lothian’s customer campaign ‘Help Us To Help You’ provides advice and guidance on the recommended steps for safe travel for customers on our COVID-19 Critical Services Network.

“Signage is clearly displayed and supported by digital information both on and off the bus urging customers to take responsibility for themselves and adhere to Scottish Government Guidelines when travelling.

“In terms of face coverings - we are mindful that there will be some customers for whom an exemption applies as they will have a legitimate reason for being unable to wear a face covering in accordance with guidance issued by the Scottish Government.

“Exemptions cannot be the responsibility of our driving team to enforce.”

Face coverings became compulsory on all public transport including taxis and private hire vehicles in Scotland on Monday 22 June following a similar move from the UK Government on June 15.

Announcing the move, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “If you have Covid, but maybe don't realise it because you don't have symptoms, a face covering reduces the risk of you passing the virus on to other people.

"And other people wearing face coverings help to protect you in a similar way."