Public transport capacity will be drastically reduced and people should wear face coverings when travelling as lockdown is eased, Scotland’s Transport Secretary has said.
Michael Matheson said the public transport system will be “substantially constrained” to try and ensure social distancing, with operators suggesting capacity will be between 10% and 25% of normal.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament detailing the Government’s first-phase plans for easing coronavirus restrictions, Mr Matheson said people “will need to take responsibility for their own decisions” if they need to use public transport.
Ministers are now urging almost everyone to wear face coverings when using trains, buses and trams.
Mr Matheson said: “People should — and are expected to — wear face coverings as an additional measure when using public transport, and as a consideration to staff and fellow passengers.
“Please come prepared with your own face covering when using public transport.”
The Transport Secretary encouraged businesses to be flexible, allowing people to work from home if possible.
If people must use public transport to get to work, Mr Matheson urged them to see whether they can alter their start and finish times to travel outside of the rush hours.
“The level of physical distancing needed as we navigate the phases of the route map will obviously affect the supply of public transport capacity, with operators estimating that two-metre physical distancing could mean capacity is anywhere between 10% and 25% of normal,” he said.
“Employers need to demonstrate leadership in being prepared to support staff who can work from home, to be able to continue to work from home.”
Mr Matheson said he has been working with operators and unions to develop a transport plan to help inform travellers how to access public transport safely, discourage non-essential journeys and avoid the busiest areas and times.
Ministers are still “looking at a range of options to try to help to manage aspects of demand”, Mr Matheson said, citing short commuter journeys as a particular challenge.
Responding to the statement, Scottish Labour’s Colin Smyth raised concerns the guidance did not make face coverings compulsory, warning that “so much ambiguity in the guidance” meant it could not be enforced.
Mr Matheson said there is an “expectation” on everyone travelling on public transport – excluding ferries – to wear face coverings so long as they do not have a medical condition preventing it.
Commenting on the statement, ScotRail operations director David Simpson said: “We are asking our customers to play a very important role in keeping everyone safe by following the Scottish Government advice to cover their face while travelling.
“The message remains the same: people should only travel when it is essential to do so. We need everyone to take personal responsibility.”
The Government will also provide an additional £20 million of funding for local authorities to introduce temporary walking and cycling infrastructure to enable physical distancing after demand exceeded the initial £10 million announced in April.
John Lauder, deputy CEO of Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity that manages the fund, said: “This additional funding will allow all local authorities and statutory bodies who want to to apply and secure funding to help provide a positive and lasting change in our walking, cycling and wheeling habits as we transition out of lockdown.”