Passengers will still need to wear face coverings on London's Tube, bus, tram, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted on July 19.
The Government has recommended that face coverings continue to be worn on public transport from next week, leaving it up to operators to decide whether to enforce the advice.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has since asked Transport for London (TfL) to keep the requirement to wear face coverings on public transport as a condition of travel on all TfL services, unless passengers are exempt.
TfL’s frontline station staff and bus drivers will continue to remind passengers that face coverings are a requirement. TfL’s specially trained enforcement officers, who patrol the transport network to ensure customers and staff remain safe, will run targeted operations and will refuse entry to people not wearing masks and who are not exempt. They will also be able to ask people to leave services for failure to comply with the requirement.
Khan said: “I’ve repeatedly made clear that the simplest and safest option would have been for the Government to retain the national requirement for face coverings on public transport. I’m not prepared to stand by and put Londoners, and our city’s recovery, at risk. This is why, after careful consideration, I have decided to ask TfL to retain the requirement for passengers to wear a face covering on all TfL services when the national regulations change.
“By keeping face masks mandatory we will give Londoners and visitors the reassurance and confidence to make the most of what our city has to offer, while also protecting our heroic transport workers and those who may be vulnerable and rely on the network to get around our city.
"It’s an extra layer of protection on top of TfL’s world-leading enhanced cleaning regime – and I’m sure Londoners will continue to do the right thing as they have done throughout the pandemic, and continue to wear a face covering on TfL services.”
TfL customer research from May 2 to May 29, 2021 shows that 86% of customers say they are wearing face coverings at all times on TfL public transport services. Of the 14% not wearing a face covering at all times or not at all, almost three-quarters (74%) claim to have an exemption or good reason under the current regulations for not doing so.
TfL said that the vast majority of its enforcement work over the past year has involved stopping people from getting on public transport services until they put on a face covering, with most complying by getting their face covering from their bag or pocket, putting it on correctly or purchasing one from a nearby shop. Only in a small percentage of cases have Fixed Penalty Notices needed to be issued to those refusing to comply.
More people are now returning to public transport, with Tube ridership at around 40% to 45% of pre-pandemic levels and bus ridership at around 60% to 65%. Confidence in travel has also risen, with 60% of people overall and 76% of people who have travelled in the last seven days saying they were confident doing so.
TfL will be using a range of communications channels to ensure passengers are clear on the requirements, including customer emails, signage, digital advertising screens, social media, in-station announcements, the TfL Go app and the TfL website. These channels will also be used to be encourage passengers to travel during the quieter times wherever possible, which will help spread demand throughout the day and ensure that everyone has the most space possible.
Andy Byford, London’s transport commissioner, said: “I would like to thank the vast majority of people using our services, who have followed the rules and helped control the virus and keep each other, and our staff, safe. I urge everyone to continue to follow the requirements so that we can continue to build confidence, and get back to the many wonderful things about London that we have missed during the pandemic.
“The transport network is cleaner than ever, with an enhanced cleaning regime, hospital grade cleaning products, widely available hand sanitizer and UV light fittings on escalator handrails to kill viruses. It is great news that regular independent testing for the virus by Imperial College has found no trace on our services, and we are now ready to safely welcome back more and more customers from 19 July as people head out to enjoy all that the capital has to offer.”